What We Know – At Least Some of It
Our Grandparents (or parents if we were lucky) inherently knew that we should spend time outdoors. Though there is no official diagnosis for lack of time outdoors, science is supporting what Grandma always said. In fact, nearly 500 published studies say it loud and clear; “Get outside, it’s good for you!”
There seems to be 2 basic reasons this is true:
1. Being outdoors is good:
- The outdoors can often be awe-inspiring and create a sense of calm.
- Being outdoors enhances the immune system.
- Being outdoors balances brain chemistry helping a great number of things. Think focus abilities, relaxation, recovery.
- Additionally, the outdoors supports the “rest and digest” response – 180° from the “fight or flight” response.
2. Being indoors can be harmful:
- Too much time indoors can be stressful.
- Too much screen time is linked to depression, anxiety, loneliness and feeling of isolation.
- Lack of analog/face time can be stressful and lead to relationship issues.
Generally, research about the importance of time spent outdoors is still in the early stages – about where exercise research was 30 years ago. And still the message is clear.
Some health insurers are beginning to invest in outdoor prescription efforts. Humana, Kaiser-Permanente, and BC/BS North Carolina are all examples. The ability to verify these programs or efforts is an issue.
Access to the outdoors is clearly an issue as well. This seems to be especially true in low income, urban areas. “Small steps” toward the outdoors appear to be a critically important strategy. Everyone can’t access a national park over the weekend, or maybe even in a lifetime. We can support greenway runs and sidewalk strolls. We can encourage balcony, porch or backyard time. We can applaud these smaller steps – they all matter.
And we can help people personalize their Outdoors is Medicine™ prescription.
Our 6 point prescription;
- The ideal outdoor session is 20 – 60 minutes (or longer). Total outdoor time for a week should be 3 hours (or more).
- Engage your senses; the more the better.
A walk in woods > a hammock session > looking out a window at trees.
- The more active you are outdoors, the better the benefits.
“Green” Exercise = Exercise Squared. The benefits are exponential.
- Make it recess. The more you control the time, the better.
You pick what you do & for how long. That’s better than an adult or coach choosing for you.
- Alone or with others? Absolutely up to you.
- Play in the rain.
Being out in all weather conditions (provided they’re safe of course!) can be beneficial.