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The Health Benefits of Being Outside and How to Hack Them

A quick guide to getting more from the great outdoors

It has become the norm now-a-days to be surrounded by screens, to be stuck sat down for the majority of the work day, the commute and when relaxing at home. There has been increasing research suggesting that a sedentary indoor lifestyle, with too much screen time has a direct impact on your health. There have even been reports that suggest that it’s not only important, but essential for humans to get outside and enjoy the natural world far more regularly than we currently do.

This article from Business Insider cover 12 reasons why it is important to spend more time outside for your mental and even physical health. It mentions how spending time in forests can directly improve your short term memory and how taking walks in nature boosts memory considerably more than taking walks in urban environments.  

The article also quotes research that suggests that simply being outside and taking part in outdoor activities can change the physical expression that stress has on the body. This is basically saying that the more time you spend outside, away from screens and even the inside of your car, the lower the effect of stress will have on your body. 

Spending time outside, even walking on your commute or eating your lunch outside can impact more than your mental health. It can reduce inflammation, help with fatigue issues and even assist with vision problems. 

If this isn’t enough to convince you that spending more time outside is a good thing then this study might. Originally published in Environmental Health Perspectives, it found a staggering connection: the greater exposure to the greenness of the outdoors was associated with a 12% lower mortality rate! Some of the largest improvements that were found were related to reduced risk of death from cancer, lung disease and kidney disease.

So with all that said, you might be thinking that you don’t have enough time to spend outside, or maybe you just don’t have the enthusiasm or inclination to take up an outdoor hobby such as mountain biking or longboarding. Well with a few of the following hacks anyone can increase their outdoor exposure with very little changes to their lifestyle. 

The first few hacks are pretty simple; instead of driving to work or taking public transport, either walk, bike or try a more modern way of commuting, such as with an electric scooter or electric skateboard. If I had to choose one, I would choose an electric scooter. Either hire one from a ride sharing company or invest in one yourself, they’re an eco friendly, fun and cheap way of commuting. They also force you to stand up, which helps reduce your sitting time. And it does all this without you having to pedal and get sweaty! If you’re looking for something a little trickier (but arguably much more fun!) then an electric skateboard could be the thing you’re looking for. Both of these can also be used off road and riding them on the trails is not only great for your health but also a lot of fun and opens up the possibility of a new hobby. However, the best trail experience is from a good old mountain bike. If this isn’t an option simply taking a new route to work will help mix up the stale routine.

Another way to get outside more is to eat your lunch outside. Ideally, find yourself a park, grab your lunch and go and eat outdoors. If you don’t have a park anywhere near your work, simple sitting on a bench and eating outdoors and enjoying the fresh air has been shown to boost mood. 

If you have a dog, taking them on more walks in different locations is a great way to tackle mental health issues. Dogs themselves have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and even depression. Taking the dogs on a new walk through a green, outdoor environment is a great way to get out somewhere new and rejuvinate the old. 

Try a ‘microadventure’. This is a term first coined by Alastair Humphreys, an English adventurer and author. A microadventure is ‘an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.’ These are great ways to breathe some life into your weekends, turning them from dry, boring binges in front of the TV, to a rewarding and mentally reinvigorating adventure that can be life changing and takes a lot less effort than you first think. 

There are many other ways to start enjoying the great outdoors and to gain from the benefits that it offers, but this was a quick introduction to help you get started. I hope this has been of some use and evoked some ideas to help you get outside more! 

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