Summer is the time when the outdoors beckons; we go to the beach in droves, have picnics, barbecues, paddle , fish and swim. Some hike, others bike, and many do both .But these good times in the outdoors are really an exception to the rule. The reality is most of us spend the vast majority of our time inside – with one estimate, reporting that the average North American spends 90% of his or her life inside. So with July in full swing, lets remind ourselves that being outdoors can be amazing – Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:
Your vitamin D levels will go up
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Over all, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don’t have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. More answers may come from randomized trials, such as the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL), which will enroll 20,000 healthy men and women to see if taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D or 1,000 mg of fish oil daily lowers the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In the meantime the good news is that you’ll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week during these summer days and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, it has to be sunny out.
You’ll get more exercise
You don’t need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Still, there’s no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to Canadian broadcast measurement and consumer behaviour data, Numeris, The average Canadian adult may watch 30 hours of television a week – time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.
You’ll be happier
UBC Psychology professor Mark Holder leads a research team that identifies factors that contribute to happiness in children such as temperament, social relations, and spirituality. His team also investigates strategies to enhance happiness in adults. According to Dr Holder ‘There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. What makes one person happy may not work for another person. However, those who are happier are people who interact with and appreciate beauty in nature; people who exercise, volunteer, and have hobbies’. Additionally, researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into “green exercise,” as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces. In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.
Your concentration will improve
Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, found that children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighborhood or downtown area.
You may heal faster
University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. This is now also being addressed with the popularity of hospital gardens. Dismissed as peripheral to medical treatment for much of the 20th century, gardens are back in style, now featured in the design of most new hospitals. Much of this popularity has emerged from the research of psychologist Roger Ulrich, from the Texas A&M University. Ulrich and his team reviewed the medical records of people recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital. He found that patients with bedside windows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
Your healthy outdoor lifestyle starts here! Attend a guided tour of UBC’s Botanical Gardens on July 20 @ 12.30pm. Click here for more information