12 Reasons Why You Should Spend More Time Outdoors

Storyteller

Georgia Greville

Looking for an excuse to hit the trail this weekend? Look no further - we've got twelve of them for you, right here.

It’s no secret that spending time outdoors makes us feel… well, good. But it can sometimes be difficult to quantify exactly what it is about nature that conjures up warmth and happiness within us. That gets us out of bed before the sun is up, that pushes us to the top of a mountain, and that makes us brave the sometimes-unforgiving elements for a beautiful view. We’ve done our research, and can unequivocally conclude that time spent outdoors is indeed good for your mind, body and soul. Here’s why.


Body:

1. Improved fitness

This is an obvious one: spending time outdoors typically involves some kind of physical movement, and therefore results in increased fitness, stamina, and endurance. But think about it this way – is there a more enjoyable way to get your workout in than climbing a mountain, or walking in a forest? Exercising in nature is definitely easier on the eyes (and nose) than the inside of a sweaty gym, and generally a lot more fun.

2. Decreased inflammation and strengthened immune system

It may seem counter-intuitive, but immersing yourself in the elements has been proven to boost immune system function and lower levels of inflammation in the body. So, when flu season rolls around, and everyone around you is coming down with a bug, you’re going to be thanking yourself for all those summer hikes you took. Indeed, some researchers have even linked time spent outdoors to a decreased incidence of chronic illness and diseases like cancer!

3. Vitamin D exposure

Most people can agree that there’s no feeling quite like that of sunlight hitting your skin, and this very process is the catalyst for the creation and activation of Vitamin D in our bodies. While almost everyone is aware of the risks of too much sun exposure, few people know that sun deprivation is actually just as dangerous to our bodies. Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and tissue, and can fight off a number of health conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks.

4. Improved vision

A major focus of recent medical research has been the ever-increasing rates of myopia, or poor vision, in children. A host of studies have linked this increase to too much time spent indoors. Not only this, but research has also shown that spending time outside, in nature, can not only slow the progression of poor vision, but can actually reverse the process of vision degeneration.

5. Fresh air

One of the biggest risks associated with our predominantly urban lifestyle is poor air quality, and the myriad health problems that it brings. Basic high school science taught us that trees act as filters for air pollution, by sucking up toxins and creating clean, high-oxygen air for us to breathe, but we tend to forget just how beneficial this can be for our lungs and general health. Even just a short forest walk can work wonders for a city-dweller.

Mind:

6. Improved mental health

There are many unique psychological benefits to what is termed ‘green exercise’, or, exercising outdoors. In general, research has shown that time in nature can enhance emotional well-being, and amplify the benefits of physical exercise. Studies have also shown that physical activity outdoors, even for as little as five minutes, leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem. Not only this, but spending time outdoors has been linked to reduced rumination, or obsessive and negative thought, which is a known risk-factor for depression and other mental illness. So, next time you’re feeling low or stressed out, the answer is simple: nature.

7. Sharper thinking and greater creativity

Creative burnout and lapses in focus are a hindrance that many of us face on a daily basis. However, the solution to your writer’s block or shrinking attention span may be far simpler than you might think. Indeed, a recent study showed that creative problem-solving and high-level cognition are greatly improved by participating in activities in nature. Inspiration comes from variety and spontaneity, and the outdoors is an infinite source of both.


8. Stress relief

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who live a constantly cool, calm and collected life, it’s likely that stress build-up is an unavoidable issue for you. Not only does stress result in a declining mental state, but anxiety also has a multitude of ugly physical manifestations, including weight gain, hair loss, and hormonal changes. Studies have shown that the best and easiest way to decrease levels of cortisol - the hormonal marker of stress – is spending time in natural surroundings. In fact, even simply looking at a view of nature through the window can reduce stress levels.

9. Improved memory and better concentration

If our predominantly-indoor lifestyles weren’t doing us enough harm already, new research shows that urban environments are actually detrimental to our short-term memory capacities and ability to focus. In contrast, a short walk in nature has been proven to have restorative cognitive functions, and to thus increase attention spans and short-term memory. So if your mind is beginning to feel like a sieve, it might be time to take a hike.

10. Break from routine 

I'm probably not alone in saying that one of my worst traits is my tendency to become uncomfortable and unsatisfied with almost every aspect of my life when I’m overworked or constantly cooped up inside. Over time, I’ve learned that one short hike can undo all of this – it can offer a new perspective, open up my mind to different opportunities, and release the stress and tension that builds up in a 9 – 5 environment. There’s never a shortage of new sights or sounds in the great outdoors, and connecting with nature is a good reminder that life isn’t, and shouldn’t be, monotonous.

Soul:

11. Socialization and improved relationships

As evidenced by The Outbound, the outdoors community is not only massive but also diverse. This group of adventure-loving individuals spans the globe, encompassing people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Our shared love of nature is the perfect foundation for social interactions and relationships, and spending time on the trail is a great way to meet new people and build upon existing relationships. Some of the best memories come from the highs, lows and mishaps that outdoor activities invariably throw at us, so next time you’re in need of socialisation or bonding time, consider connecting over a camping trip or a hike.

12. Environmental awareness

Most of us are all too aware of the massive and diverse environmental threats facing our planet today, but feel powerless in making a substantive or meaningful impact. It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re cooped up inside, or to forget just how important it is to tirelessly work to protect our natural surroundings. Spending time outdoors is a constant reminder of just how incredible our planet is, and a hike or walk in nature is often the best source of motivation to make a difference.

So there you have it – hard evidence that nature is the perfect remedy to whatever physical, mental or spiritual crisis you may be having. These endless benefits definitely offer the perfect excuse to spend your next weekend out in nature – so what are you waiting for?

Published: May 4, 2017

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.

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