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Reasons You Need to Spend More Time Outside

America is a nation of couch potatoes. Many prefer wiling away the hours playing game consoles or in front of the TV than communing with nature. However, there are some compelling reasons to open your front door and spend more time in the great outdoors.

It’ll Boost Your Mental Health

Image via Flickr by jonas_foyn

Spending time outside is an easy way to lift your mood. In fact, Brent Beam, a therapist from Asheville, South Carolina, believes being in the outdoors can boost mental health better than some antidepressants

Dr. Susanne Preston, a clinical mental health counseling instructor at Virginia Beach’s South University, suggests sunlight is one of the key contributors to the positive way we feel outdoors. When sunlight hits our skin, we create Vitamin D. Low levels of this vitamin are linked to a variety of health complaints, including depression and anxiety.

The impact of sunlight is so powerful that people in climates with harsh winters are at risk of a mental health condition called seasonal affective disorder. This problem, which has depression-like symptoms, is far less common in places that are sunny year-round like California and Florida.

It’ll Encourage You to Be More Active

When people spend time outdoors, they tend to be more active. Of course you can spend your time outside reading under a tree or lying in the grass, but more often you’ll find yourself enjoying all that wide-open space.

Exercising outdoors is also more beneficial than sweating it out in the gym. Walking, jogging, and cycling on hills and different terrain can put your body to the test much more than working out on a treadmill or exercise bike. Peak Fitness also notes people who exercise outside typically have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than gym junkies.

You’ll Reduce Your Risk of Illness

Spending time indoors is doing your health no favors. The average indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than what lies outside, according to the Environment Protection Agency. In some cases, indoor environments are a whopping 100 times worse than outdoor environments. No wonder then that the World Health Organization believes indoor air pollution causes nearly 3 percent of the world’s diseases.

Indoor air pollution is linked to a raft of illnesses from the common cold and respiratory irritation to more serious health problems like asthma and Legionnaire’s disease. Researchers also believe indoor air pollutants may cause autism, Tourette’s syndrome, and allergies in children.

Outdoor environments are healthier because trees trap airborne particles and absorb pollutants. Studies also show simply relaxing under a tree can slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure. When you spend time in the sun, the Vitamin D you produce will also reduce your risk of contracting osteoporosis, heart disease, and a range of cancers. When you spend time outdoors, you’re also getting away from all those nasties lurking indoors like mold and volatile organic chemicals.

With time spent outdoors bringing you so many benefits, there’s no better time to leave your couch behind and get back to nature.