Spending time outdoors is essential to our health.
Last week, my sister called from New York to tell me how good she was feeling. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping as she was sitting outside with her morning coffee. The weather is finally warm enough that she could walk around her office building at lunch time. She explained since she moved in to her new office, she has been feeling miserable. Her new space has no windows, and aside from her lunch break, this is where she spends 40 hours per week sitting.
Does that sound familiar?
How lucky we are to live in Florida and not have to deal with those winter blues. But as I sit here in my own office, itself with no windows, I am reminded although it might be bright and sunny outdoors, many people sit at their desks all day long and don’t get to benefit from it.
Being indoors all day with no access to natural light can really affect our mood, our concentration and our overall mental and physical health. It’s also important to get our daily dose of vitamin D. Though vitamin D can be found in some foods, we get most of it from exposure to sunlight and we can benefit from as little as 10 to 15 minutes per day. Once a day, you can find me walking around the parking lot or sitting in the sun. Taking that break outside allows me come back in feeling invigorated. In turn, I am much more productive.
It improves mental health by boosting our mood and reducing stress levels. It is also proven to help us concentrate, which is why going outdoors for recess is so important for school children. Some studies have even shown natural light is good for our vision.
Though it may seem challenging to fit outdoor time in the busy work week, it is possible. Here are a few things to consider to help you make the most of your time in the sunshine.
- Do you work close enough to home to walk or bike there?
- Can you walk your child to school before work in the morning instead of driving?
- Try waking up 30 minutes earlier and take a brisk walk before you start your day.
- An after-dinner walk or bike ride can help you unwind and has an added bonus if you catch the sunset.
- Plan outings on weekends that involve spending time outside.
- Visit a local park, go for a hike or spend time swimming in the ocean or collecting seashells.
- Get the family involved by choosing a new location to explore. It doesn’t have to be an all-day event. In fact, as we get into the summer months, it’s probably best if it’s not.
- Choose a hobby that forces you to be outdoors, like gardening, hiking or biking.
- If you like to read, time outside can be spent reading a good book.
Simply being outside improves our overall feelings of well-being. It doesn’t cost us anything to do, but if we don’t get out there it could cost us our health.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.