Why You Should Go Outside At Least 20 Minutes a Day

…after the Polar Vortex ends.

By Katherine Fluor
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There’s no better cure for a stressful day or an overwhelmed mind than sunshine, exercise, and fresh air. Even those times when you’re feeling busy and rushed, you should make it a priority to spend at least 20 minutes outside every day. It’s free, easy, and single-handedly one of the most beneficial things we can do for our overall health and wellbeing.  Scroll on for 6 reasons why you should shut that laptop, lace up your sneakers, and get outside!

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Fuel up your brain.

You know that feeling where your brain seems to be sputtering to a halt, and no amount of coffee seems to help? Researchers call that “mental fatigue.” One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, aka nature. Studies show that far more active thinking happens when we are outside walking or taking a hike than time spent inside scrolling on social media or on the computer.

When you spend time doing activities outside, your brain naturally comes up with more ideas, and you are more likely to feel creative as a result. 

Reduce inflammation.

Inflammation is a natural process the body uses to respond to threats (ie fight or flight). But when inflammation kicks into overdrive, it can cause multiple health problems such as autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature is one way to help keep it in check. Read more about daily habits to reduce inflammation here.

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Get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

Many of us are not getting enough vitamin D. The reason, according to scientists? We’re not getting enough sunlight, and the foods we eat that naturally contain vitamin D don’t contain enough to satisfy optimal requirements. Researchers reported that three-quarters of Americans were coming up short on vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been tied to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, hip fractures, and pregnancy complications. Your body’s best source of vitamin D is some natural sunshine.

High levels of Vitamin D via the sun’s rays also bring amazing skin benefits. It is helpful in relieving things like acne, eczema, and rosacea. But always make sure you apply (and reapply) sunscreen daily — at least SPF 50 — to prevent sun damage, wrinkles, and skin cancer. 

Improve focus and memory.

Having a hard time concentrating? Get outside for a few minutes –just a little fresh air and sunshine can help increase your attention span. In fact, the link to attention and nature is so strong that scientists say it can help with those suffering from ADHD, who have been found to concentrate better after a 20 minute walk in the park.

“Doses of nature serve as a safe, inexpensive, and widely accessible new tool for managing ADHD symptoms,” researchers wrote.

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Sleep better.

How well we sleep has a lot to do with hormones like melatonin and our natural circadian rhythm, both of which are affected by exposure to direct sunlight. If you’re spending too much time indoors, your body’s natural rhythms cannot synchronize properly, and your sleep cycle is likely to suffer as a result

Getting sunshine, especially early in the morning, can help to balance your internal body clock, regulate your circadian rhythm, and balance your overall energy levels. Next time you’re feeling sleepy after lunch, trade in your afternoon cup of coffee for a 15 minute walk. Chances are you’ll come back to your desk ready to conquer the rest of the day, and will notice a difference in the quality of your sleep that night. 

How often do you get outside? What outdoor activities do you love? Share your tips for getting more sunshine in the comments below!