We’re days away from the official start of spring, and with the change in season comes warmer temperatures, sunnier skies, and a sense of renewal and hope. For many of us, springtime offers more opportunities to spend time outdoors, and research shows that the more we say “yes” to these invitations, the more we thrive. Spending time outside holds tremendous benefits for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of people of all ages. Let’s explore how!
Physical Health Benefits
When we spend time outdoors, our bodies are naturally positioned to move—to walk, explore, stretch, even run around. It’s no wonder that time spent outside has been shown to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, while also reducing inflammation. Direct sunlight also supports the body’s production of Vitamin D, which protects against a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and bone issues. Last but certainly not least, exposure to bright natural light early in the morning helps regulate your body’s internal clock so that you fall asleep earlier and get a better night’s sleep.
Mental and Emotional Health Benefits
We’ve likely all experienced the near-instant mood boost of a midday walk, or that feeling that comes over you when you turn your face towards the sun. Research shows that just 20 minutes outside can shift our emotions. For children, time spent outdoors has been linked to better concentration, more prosocial behavior, and the easing of ADHD symptoms. Many parents also find that touching the earth and digging in the dirt improve their child’s mood while decreasing their stress level. In fact, scientists have recently found a relationship between proximity to green spaces in childhood with a lower risk of psychiatric disorders in adolescence and adulthood.
Ideas for Spending Time Outside
Take a walk or jog – try listening to a book or podcast!
Have a weekend picnic with friends or family.
Bring the newspaper or a book to your neighborhood park or green space.
Play an outdoor sport you love—tennis, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and golf – all great options!
Dine al fresco.
Volunteer at a nearby community garden – workday opportunities abound in the spring!
Many things in the world are outside of our control, but there are crucial aspects of our lives that we can control—and the seasonal transition from winter to spring is a great time to assess these aspects, starting with how we’re caring for ourselves to support our general health and well-being. Think of spending time outside as a tool in your wellness toolbox and incorporate outdoor time into your routine. You’re all but guaranteed to reap the physical, mental, and emotional rewards.
Have more great ideas for spending time outdoors this spring? Drop them in the comments below!
American Psychological Association, Nurtured by Nature
Harvard Medical School, A prescription for better health: Go alfresco
PNAS, Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood
Scientific Reports, Health Benefits from Nature Experiences Depend on Dose
The National Wildlife Federation, Connecting Kids and Nature
Time, Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health