Recently someone posed the question to me: If you could have lived during any time in history, when would it be? It took me a full millisecond to arrive at my answer: right now, right here.
And while there are lots of wonderful things about the age we live in, I’m embarrassed to say that nearly all my reasons had to do with comfort. In this day of heaters, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, personal vehicles and the like, we spend most of our existence comfortably indoors, within a few degrees of our preferred temperature and surrounded by everything we might want or need (which likely has been delivered to our doorstep). One EPA study estimated we spend a massive 93 percent of our time inside—87 percent indoors and another 6 percent in vehicles.
Our electronics obsession is partly to blame. We prefer to sit inside staring at screens, where we can control the variables—the channel, the volume, the sofa–pillow arrangement, the cleanliness and, yes, the temperature—rather than venture into the uncontrollable, unpredictable realm of the outdoors, with its clouds and sun and wind and bugs and frost and creatures and rain.
And we’re the poorer for it.
The Heath Benefits of the Great Outdoors
By nearly any measure, outdoor time is good for you. It’s the best way to get vitamin D, which is linked to bone health, mental health, immune function and the prevention of many diseases. Science also shows it can maintain your eyesight, lower your stress levels, expose you to cleaner air, improve your memory and mental capacity, counteract ADHD, accelerate healing, and balance the federal budget. OK, maybe not that last one, but it’s powerful nonetheless.
You don’t even have to be outside for long to reap benefits. A mere five to fifteen minutes in full sun can deliver all the vitamin D you need for several days (especially in the summer when the rays are stronger). And a meta-analysis published in Environmental Science & Technology showed that spending just five minutes outside reliably improves mood and self-esteem, especially if you exercise while you’re out there.
I found all this research so inspirational that I grabbed my laptop and headed outside to write this article. And although I’m still not hankering to live in the Middle Ages or the Old West, I am committing to getting outside for a bit every day. Maybe if we all did the same, we’d have the mental clarity to balance that budget after all.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).