How much time do you think you spend outdoors? Each day? Each Week? Many of us know we could be spending more time outdoors. We hear that it’s good for us and know we should be getting some fresh air, but most of us think nothing of it. Especially during these summer months when it’s easier and more convenient to get outside. But think about your normal daily routine. Not that week you’re on summer vacation laying on the beach. You wake up, commute to the office or scuttle down the hall to your computer, and then you hang out in your office or home all day long eventually heading back home. Maybe you catch your kids soccer game after work or get a quick walk in before dinner. Does this sound familiar? You spent maybe an hour or two outside for the day (and that’s maybe during these nicer summer months)! Studies have shown that American’s, on average, spend a whopping 90% of their time indoors. NINETY…NINE – ZERO percent!
So what’s the big deal?
Spending so much time indoors can be affecting our health in big ways. Even with regular cleaning, indoor air is generally up to five times more polluted than outside. The things and materials in our homes can both off gas toxins and trap things like dust and create pollution inside our homes. Paints, cleaning products, appliances and furniture can off gas toxins in our homes increasing levels of pollution. Carpets, upholstery, bedding and even children’s toys can trap dust amplifying pollution in our homes. This increases risk of respiratory diseases, fatigue, headache and can tax our immune system.
Lack of exposure to natural light is vital to a properly functioning internal clock. Your circadian rhythm is balanced by plenty of natural sunlight during the day, especially the morning hours, and prepares you for a restful night’s sleep as sunlight naturally diminishes. But we are continually taxing our bodies’ natural cycles with almost non-existent sun exposure and ever-increasing artificial light exposure from screens. Screens emit blue light which blocks melatonin production, the sleep hormone. This isn’t such an issue during the day, but we constantly stay plugged in long after the sun has gone down, messing with natural melatonin production, and so too our sleep.
Still don’t think all of this is a big issue?
As a species, we have evolved and need time spent outdoors and it shows in countless studies. Time and time again, studies show that time spent in nature is associated with lower stress levels, improved sleep, better immune system function, improved mood, naturally increased vitamin D levels, and better eye health. Just to name a few. If those things don’t sound any good to you, you can stop reading now and be on your way. If these things sound like just what you need they are easier to implement than you might think. You don’t need to go on hiking adventures and camp in the woods every weekend to get your “nature quota” in, but, hey, if that’s your thing then more power to you! But simply spending some time outside your house each day can help to reap the benefits of nature. Getting a few minutes on the deck to enjoy your coffee before you head to the office, taking a quick walk on your lunch break, and soaking in some time in the backyard after work are easy ways to get some extra outside time each day.
Working to limit screen time will also help to get outside, reset your internal clock, reduce stress and anxiety, promote physical activity, and help you connect with those around you and be more present. Studies show that screen time is getting out of control. Kids 8-12 spend an average of 4-6 hours per day on their phone, computer or watching TV. Teens up to 9 hours per day and adults an insane 10.5 hours per day! We need a serious overhaul with our screens. Start today. Put the phone down and get outside. Take a walk, ride your bike, enjoy a meal on the deck. Your body will thank you!