We spend 90% or more of our time indoors, and it’s all too easy to overlook the consequences this has on our health. Poor indoor air quality ventilation along with a lack of natural light can have a dramatic impact on your well-being. On the other hand, fresh air and sunshine can have a positive impact on stress levels and longevity.
For most of us who spend much of our waking hours in the office and then indoors at home, the potential for healthier living can be realised through one simple change: outdoor living.
Here, we look at the incredible ways outdoor living can boost your health and offer four practical strategies for getting more fresh air and natural light into your day.
The health benefits of spending time outdoors
Research suggests people who spend at least two hours a week in nature are more likely to report good health or wellbeing. Fresh air and natural light can have a range of health benefits. These six are the top advantages to help you stay motivated to spend more time outdoors.
Fresh air supports body function and memory
Fresh air can support healthier body function and elevate your brain functioning, including memory and cognitive control. It boosts your energy levels and could be associated with a lower risk of conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
By going outside or even just opening up a window, you raise your intake of phytoncides (airborne chemicals produced by plants), which can support health outcomes like a stronger immune system. Taking deep breaths of fresh air can increase the oxygen levels in your blood, which can then increase serotonin levels to lower stress and anxiety. In turn, this can also enhance your physical health as well as brain functioning, such as concentration and focus.
Natural light facilitates better health
Getting enough natural light could promote good health in a few different ways. Natural light is associated with fewer sick days and a reduction in headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. Natural light freshens dark, musty indoor spaces, and could help support better sleep, eating patterns, and mood, which in turn can support better health.
Sunshine and Vitamin D promote healthy bones
Sunshine helps your body produce Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus and lowers the risk of infections and inflammation. Vitamin D is crucial for maintaining bone health throughout your life and has related benefits like facilitating overall immune health, muscle function, and brain cell activity.
Listening to nature reduces stress
Spending time in natural surroundings and listening to its sounds could reduce stress and improve mood. Whether you’re relaxing on your deck, in your garden, or at the park or beach, you could lower your heart rate, reduce the tension in your muscles, and decrease your blood pressure. A sanctuary in your backyard makes a great location if you’re working from home, to take time out throughout the workday and destress.
Improve social life with outdoor activities
Outdoor activities can enhance your social life by giving you more opportunities and a variety of settings to engage with your community. The fresh air and natural light may enhance your cognitive functioning as you interact with others, improve your communication, and strengthen your social connections. Also, studies show that positive moods and emotions encouraged by time spent in nature are linked to prosocial behaviour, which are actions that benefit others.
Achieve better sleep every night
Spending time outdoors or being exposed to natural light can allow you to maintain your circadian rhythms. Your natural circadian rhythms ready your body for changes in your environment and different activities like sleeping, eating, and being active.
As such, exposure to natural light along with darkness can help you achieve a better quality of sleep every night. After sunset, leave your devices inside, turn off the lights, and head out to your deck to encourage melatonin production as you ready for sleep.
Tips to increase the hours you spend outdoors for working individuals
It’s challenging to spend more time outdoors. The majority of us still have to work 40 hours or more each day, including those of us who are based in our home offices. However, there are some easy ways to increase how much time you spend enjoying the benefits of fresh air and natural light. Given we spend so much time working, it’s vital to make an effort to include plenty of outdoor time in our working hours to optimise our health and well-being.
Take a short walk
Stop a couple of times throughout your workday and take a brief walk around the block. Even a brisk 10-minute work could strengthen your concentration, focus, and productivity. Research suggests people who move more, even by accumulating one hour of activity throughout the day, reduce their risk of mortality by half.
Install a fly screen and keep doors open
You can still bring in the outdoors when you’re working at home for the majority of the day. Open up your interiors to the outdoors by installing fly screens and keeping your doors open.
Retractable insect screens make a wonderful investment, letting the fresh air in and enabling you to enjoy the natural views while keeping out the insects. When you’re powering through your workweek, keep the doors open so you’ll get the full benefits of your semi-outdoor space thanks to your new fly screens.
As the daylight hours extend during summer, you can enjoy the fresh air and natural light for longer with the windows open and retractable screens installed, whether at the office or home.
Enjoy lunch on your patio
Skip eating at your desk and take your lunch break outside on your patio. Take the opportunity to eat mindfully, away from your emails, and you’ll likely enjoy a boost in productivity during your afternoon. The change of scenery, along with the fresh air, natural light, and views helps you reset and return to work refreshed.
Take Zoom calls outside
Instead of taking your Zoom calls inside, why not set down a comfortable chair in your favourite outdoor spot? You’ll be able to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air while getting through your calls. Check the lighting is sufficient if you’re in a shaded spot. Don’t forget to test your mic for background noise as well. Choosing an outdoor space next to a building wall might be a good idea if you’re looking for a way to minimise wind noise.
Natural light and fresh air provide some incredible health benefits. Given this, you’ll want to incorporate more outdoor living into your day, especially if you’re working from home or working all day. These health benefits can make you more productive and efficient, so you get more done during your work hours.
You can start today by taking more walks and going outside for lunch or calls. Creating indoor-outdoor spaces or bringing the outdoors into your living and working areas is another great tip, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to install fly screens. These simple steps can make a lot of difference to your health and well-being, so you’ll likely find they’re well worth the effort.