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How much time are we spending outdoors?
Compared to 20 years ago, adults are spending 30% less time outdoors, whilst children are spending 50% less time outdoors. This is ridiculous – prisoners spend more time outdoors! And it’s a trend which is getting worse.
Why are we spending less time outdoors?
There are many reasons why we are spending less time outdoors – getting lost in the world of social media and technology is one of the major ones. In-fact, we are spending an average of five hours daily on screen time/our mobile devices and an average of 50 minutes on applications such as Facebook alone. Pay TV only adds to our time spent indoors.
Many of the children born in the past 20 years have been connected to a computer before a field of grass, which has resulted in a generation with minimal appreciation for the outdoors and for movement in general. Many choose to be indoors even when they have the opportunity to be outside. Luckily, I grew up in a natural setting of which I am extremely grateful for, as I strongly believe that these early experiences have prevented me from getting sucked into the lure of the technological world.
An ever increasing population has also meant that our land sizes are decreasing and our backyards are shrinking.
Most of us also work longer hours, and spend more time commuting to and from work as congestion increases.
Fear of crime and increasing skin cancer rates have also had negative impacts on the amount of time we spend outdoors.
What happens when we don’t spend enough time outdoors?
Not spending enough time outdoors can result in;
*Increased inflammation – resulting in autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer.
*Vitamin D deficiency – leading to things like osteoporosis, weakened immunity against bacteria/viruses, and obesity, etc. Every second person living in South Australia, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania are deficient in Vitamin D.
*Causes Poor Sleep/Insomnia – not spending enough time outdoors affects your internal clock/circadian rhythm and affects your melatonin levels– a hormone which helps you sleep.
*Delays recovery from injury/increases pain – Research shows that limited exposure to nature increases pain, illness and delays recovery time from both major surgery and minor health problems.
*Is bad for your lungs: Indoor air is 75% higher in pollutants, as well as positive ions (oxygen molecules with an extra electron) which have been linked to decreased sense of well-being, decreased alertness, increased anxiety and a higher resting heart rate.
*Decreases your immune system – For example: a lack of exposure to dirt increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
*Poor Vision – a lack of outdoor exposure is creating a myopia epidemic – so much so that by the year 2050, the amount of people who are short sighted will grow from 4 million to 22 million.
*Exposes you to relentless noise pollution – which has been linked to higher blood pressure, stress, and even a heart attack.
*Shortens your life – people who spend less time outdoors have been shown to have poor overall health and longevity than those who do.
*Increased stress and anxiety – by increasing levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress. The less time you spend in nature, the more time you spend in your head, and this results in increased stress and anxiety.
*Increases mental fatigue – less time in nature means less restorative time for your brain, resulting in decreased problem-solving skills, less creativity/imagination, weakened cognition, short-term memory loss, selective attention, decreased ability to multitask, and a decreased ability to concentrate or focus your attention on one task, which is linked to things like ADHD.
*Decreases your self-esteem and mood – not spending enough time in nature increases activity in a key region of the brain associated with depression.
Spend more time outdoors…
Whilst this may all sound bad, the good news is that all of these things can be easily avoided by making more time to be outdoors. We should all be aiming to spend an absolute minimum of a 1/2 to 1 hour outdoors each day. Some ways to do this include;
*Spend your lunch breaks outdoors rather than in the office or café.
*Instead of meeting with friends at a restaurant, meet in a park or beach instead.
*Take a daily walk after a meal either on your own or with a loved one.
*Take your children to a park instead of an indoor play centre!
*Read your favourite book outside instead of in.
*Consider getting a pet if you don’t already have one – as long as you are willing to spend outdoor time with it!
*Leave your car at home and walk wherever you can – to the shops, train station, etc.
*Play sport instead of watching it – either competitively or for fun/back yard cricket, etc.
*Buy kids toys which encourage active outdoors play time, as opposed to screen time.
*Get into your garden – it’s a great way to get connected to the earth.
*Implement a family hike day where you regularly explore new trails.
*Book holidays which involve the outdoors like camping/caravanning, bushwalking, swimming at the beach, etc.
*Exercise outdoors as much as possible rather than in a gym or your home.
*On sunny days, hang clothes outside instead of using the dryer.
*Restrict use/consumption of technology including TV, computers, tablets, phones, and other devices.
*Implement a ‘Tech Box’ where all technology is put into and not taken out until family time is spent outdoors.
*Try to have an office with a window to the outdoors.
*Bring the outdoors ‘indoors’ by putting plants in your home and office, and keeping doors to the outside open when possible.
*Create a beautiful outdoor space – you are more likely to spend time there if it is uplifting.
*Build an outdoor kitchen/BBQ and cook outdoors often.
*If you don’t have an outdoor job, then try to work outdoors as much as possible. This is easy if you have a laptop and can work from home.
As you increase your time outdoors, just remember to stay sun smart and stay hydrated. It is safe to go outside without sun protection early morning and late afternoon when the UV Index falls below 3.
The take home message…
We were never designed to live indoors, and that’s because nature is an inherent part of who we are. This is something that indigenous people from all parts of the world know. Spending time outdoors, and in nature, has the ability to transform and heal every aspect of our lives. Intuitively, we know this, which is why so many of us choose holiday destinations on the coast, in the hills or anywhere we can retreat to nature.
So what are you waiting for… start reaping the health benefits of being in nature and the great outdoors.
Q.What are some ways you spend your time outdoors?
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