(Before going outside…)
People in industrialized countries, on average, now spend approximately 93 percent of their time indoors. Some sources I found claim that Americans on average spend up to 98% of their indoors, meaning as little as 30 minutes a day are spent outside. While this certainly isn’t true of everyone, and time spent outside probably varies depending on the day of the week and time of the year, this amount of time seems exceptionally low. Especially considering the multitude of physical and mental health benefits now associated with spending time outside. An October 2010 article by the Harvard Medical School nicely sums up some of the potential benefits of spending time outside:
1. Your vitamin D levels will go up. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is naturally found in very few foods, but can also be obtained from sun exposure. It is essential for strong, healthy bones and research suggests it may also play a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and even simply, your likelihood of developing the flu.
2. You’ll get more exercise. While you can certainly be outside without being active, you are much more likely to be sedentary indoors. Children have been found to be twice as active when they are outside. Promoting activity is critical given the doubling of childhood obesity rates over the past 30 years and the fact that more than one-third of adults in the US are obese.
3. You’ll be happier. Physical exercise combined with bright, natural light is significantly more effective at alleviating depressive symptoms and elevating mood than just exercise alone. Research also suggests that we are at our happiest when we are outside.
4. Your concentration will improve. Studies of children with ADHD have shown outdoor exercise to have positive effects on the condition such as increasing test scores after a simple walk through a park. And though most of the official research has focused on children, I can personally attest to the clarifying power of a walk through the woods. Going outdoors to connect with nature may also improve our capacity to innovate!
5. You may heal faster. You may have heard about the study that found a window view of trees can accelerate patient recovery, but maybe even more remarkable is a 2005 study of spinal surgery patients who felt less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during recovery if exposed to natural light. Research is now exploring how exposure to natural environments such as forests may also help boost immune systems.
(…and after going outside!)
And let’s not forget the potential influence of spending time outdoors on our other environmental attitudes and behaviors. As archaeologist and amateur naturalist John Lubbock reminds us, “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
Triangle Land Conservancy is here to help you accrue some of these benefits by offering open spaces and programming to connect you with nature! In addition to our public nature preserves, which are open 365 days a year for free, we offer a slew of fun, often free events and outings. Starting this Sunday, we invite you to join us in our newest adventure series, TGI Hike Days.
Inspired by the saying, “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” or TGIF, Thank Goodness It’s (TGI) Hike Day will hopefully become a quick fan favorite of TLC supporters, new and old. Just about every month, a staff member will lead a hike on a TLC property of their choice. The day, time, and focus of the hike will vary, but each hike will offer participants a chance to learn new things about the property and about TLC in general.
TGI Hike Day starts this Sunday, January 25, 2015 with Communications Manager Diana Hackenburg leading a hike at Swift Creek Bluffs in Wake County. Participants should register online and meet at the Swift Creek Bluffs parking lot by 2pm. This leisurely hike will meander throughout the property for approximately 2-2.5 miles and includes several staircases. Participants are encouraged to bring their cameras, binoculars, and questions!
Scheduled TGI Hike Days
February 18 – White Pines with Matt Rutledge
March 27 – Brumley with Kyle Obermiller
April 11 – Snow Hill Birding with Bo Howes
Can't make it to this scheduled TGI Hike Day? Make your own! We've laid out quite a few backyard adventures that'll help you further explore the Triangle's natural beauty and the wild located almost right in your backyard.