The Benefits of Getting Outside

The advice below are excerpts from WebMD’s “Health Benefits of Getting Outside.” WebMD is a popular resource for medical facts about healthy living. More and more, doctors are recommending that people get outside to improve and maintain good health… a simple walk or bike in the park for as little as 15 to 30 minutes is excellent for both our body and mind. Here’s why:

  • Walking outside makes you more likely to exercise, especially if you’re a kid.
  • It helps you get Vitamin D, which is important for your bones, blood cells, and immune system. It also helps your body absorb more of certain minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. Your body needs sunlight to make it, but you don’t need much. In the summer, just getting sun for 5 to 15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week, should do it. In the winter, you might need a bit more.
  • Imagine what a walk will do when even a simple plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, and stressed.
  • When you get outside your house, it’s not only Mother Nature you see. You also connect more with the people and places in your community.
  • The outdoors helps set your sleep cycle. Cells in your eyes need enough light to get your body’s internal clock working right. Early morning sunlight in particular seems to help people get to sleep at night.
  • Outdoor activity can help improve your self-esteem and fight anxiety. More relaxed activity like a walk, bike ride, or work in the garden seems to work even better than hi-intensity exercise. Exercising outside is superior to inside a gym: Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused.
  • In one study, kids with ADHD were able to concentrate better on a task after a walk in the park than they were after a walk through an urban area.
  • Sunlight also seems to energize special cells in your immune system called T cells that help fight infection.
  • Studies show that time in nature can boost your creative problem-solving abilities.

One last tip about the sun and safety: “Protect yourself from the sun with long sleeves, sunglasses, and a hat. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, even when it’s cloudy. Try to let people know where you go, especially if you’re going alone into a wilderness area,”… but it is a good idea even for a park.

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