The Internet, TV, social media and other technologies may have advanced society, but they have also created many disadvantages. As electronics become more prominent, many Americans spend less time outdoors and in nature.
Lives are becoming more sedentary, and the rise in time spent indoors not only affects physical health, but also mental and spiritual well-being. According to seattletimes.com, a Kaiser Family Foundation study reported that kids from ages eight to18 spend eight to 12 hours daily with electronics. A different study on adult activity revealed that two-thirds of adults watch more than two hours of TV everyday.
The summer months are the perfect time to take advantage of nature by heading outside to engage in outdoor activities or to simply relax. Rather than watching a TV show or updating social media during the summer, head outside and enjoy the many benefits of nature.
Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
1) Increased vitamin D: Studies have proven that vitamin D protects the human body from various health issues and diseases such as cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D can be absorbed naturally through sunlight. By acting smart and safely with sun exposure, healthy levels of vitamin D can be achieved without fear of sunburn or skin cancer. According to thetimes-tribune.com, exposing the body safely in sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes multiple times a week will result in more vitamin D.
2) Tackled obesity: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reported that most American children engage in four to seven hours of unstructured activity outdoors, in comparison to more than seven hours with an electronic screen. Over the last two decades, childhood obesity has doubled. With jammed schedules, children have less time and freedom to play outside. Outdoor activity leads to better fitness and more movement, resulting in overall healthier bodies. All age groups benefit from outdoor activities, ranging from hide-and-seek to walking and biking.
3) Improved mood: Spending time outdoors and in sunlight, whether it be hiking on a trail or reading on a lawn chair, has positive effects on mood. A British study in 2008 showed how spending as little as five minutes outside daily helps mental health. Being outside, especially in a natural setting like a forest, can uplift one’s spirit, leading to a better personality and improved outlook on life.
4) Reduced attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): According to NWF, the U.S. consumes the greatest amount of ADHD medications in the world. Conservation psychology studies reveal that seeing and being in nature can help lower the illness’s rates and symptoms. When outdoors, children with ADHD can focus better than when indoors with less natural light and surroundings.
5) Quicker healing time: Jaime Matyas, the Executive Vice President of NWF, said, “Nature may indeed be the best kind of nurture.” A Scientific American article reported that evidence exists proving that patients in a hospital or elsewhere recover quicker when they have a view of the outdoors and nature. Natural sunlight and scenery of trees and sky can help restore the mind, body and soul, leading to a faster recovery time and less need for pain medication.
6) Reduced stress and anxiety: The outdoors are known to have a calming effect on the body. According to athleta.net, “Your entire system is directly affected by the physical, mental and emotional stresses of your daily life. Spending time outside enjoying nature is one of the most basic ways to help reduce your stress level and boost your immune system, a critical aspect to overall health and well-being.” Because environment can cause stress and anxiety, calm the body with an outdoor activity such as a walk in a park or gardening in the backyard.
7) Improved relationships: Nature not only affects one’s personal well-being, but it also impacts the way one interacts with and treats others. Scientific American reported, in 2009, University of Rochester researchers found that “exposure to nature can affect our priorities and alter what we think is important in life.” Appreciating the air, trees, grass and wildlife of the outdoors affects one’s perception of life. The study also showed that exposure to nature makes humans less selfish and more concerned about their relationships and bonds with others.
8) Enhanced vision: Spending multiple hours in front of an electronic screen can lead to issues like eye strain and blurred vision. Being outdoors, however, improves eyesight. Children who spend more time outside may have a lesser need for glasses, as well as clearer vision. “Outdoor exposure also may be beneficial because sunlight causes the pupil to constrict, resulting in a larger depth of focus –the range in which objects appear clear—and less image blur,” Jane Gwiazda, director of research at The New England College of Optometry, said.
Edited by Shannon Koehle