Why you need to spend more time outside

Proximity to nature – whether that’s hiking in a vast open landscape, taking a stroll through a local park or surrounding ourselves with plants – helps us destress.

The effect is so strong that just looking out of your window and observing greenery can lower stress levels.

‘Fresh air and space can give you a better perspective and has been proven many a time to be good for your well-being,’ Shamir Patel, pharmacist and founder of Chemist 4 U tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Sometimes, spending too much time inside can leave you feeling restricted, agitated and sometimes even claustrophobic.

‘Adding to this, being outside can increase your endorphin levels, especially if you’re in a place that makes you feel happy. For some, that might be walking by a river, for others it may be spending time outside with friends, it may even be doing physical sports.

‘Endorphins are chemicals that help to relieve pain or stress and boost happiness so they have multiple benefits, all of which can be triggered by spending time outdoors.’

From a purely physical point of view, we also need sunlight – this triggers the body’s vitamin D production, which in turn helps us fight off inflammation, lowers blood pressure and improves brain function.

‘Not spending enough time outside can cause complications,’ said Shamir.

‘The biggest one is probably that you’re restricting yourself of vitamin D by not being outside enough. Vitamin D helps to effectively regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Both of which are essential in bone and muscle health.’

You can also develop pain in your joints, including back pains from lack of movement or sitting in a fixed position for too long.

Eyesight is also a factor to consider, according to research.

One study found that children who spent more time outside were less likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness).

Generally, when we spend time outside we also move our bodies more.

‘Another perk of being outside is that it’s usually linked to exercise of some form,’ said Shamir.

‘Even when strolling around, this is still a moderate movement that gets your heart beating faster and blood pumping more frequently.

‘This is good for keeping your body healthy, promoting consistent weight loss and management and improving blood pressure and heart health too.

‘Taking just 30 minutes a day to take a walk outside – especially if you spend a long time inside – can seriously improve your health.’

Most of us have busy work and social lives, and are unable to spend the entirety of our day outside. You could however schedule in micro-sessions that add up throughout the day.

For instance, if you live near your workplace, skip the driving or public transport and opt for walking or cycling. It will energise you and give you a better boost than your morning caffeine fix.

Throughout the day, try to pop outside for five or 10 minutes – simply walking around the block, taking a seat on a bench or just standing in the sunlight could help reduce anxiety and stress.

Repeat during the afternoon and evening.

If you find walking a bit dull, you could bring your phone and listen to an audio book or podcast while you’re outdoors or bring a few friends along and have a picnic.

Instead of hitting the gym, you could also opt for an outdoor workout or join a local sports team.

Most importantly, remember to have a healthy balance in life.

It’s fine to binge-watch TV shows and focus on your career by spending time at your desk.

But if you can’t remember when you last spent time in nature for a longer period  – the walk to the local pub or shop doesn’t count –  get outside.

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