Why do we need to spend more time outdoors in nature anyway?
Because we LOVE it even if we don’t know it!
“There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties”
– John Muir
Getting Outdoors is Good For You
Living, learning and loving to be outdoors is second nature to me and always has been. I fervently believe that nature and the wild can provide everything the human body and soul needs to thrive, if we immerse ourselves in it at any level (whether that’s growing a few houseplants in a city flat, living on a boat in the middle of a Scottish loch or anything in between)
But how can we get outdoors more, and is time outdoors in nature really good for you?
I feel nourished, restored and revitalized in nature. Just notice what happens to your kids when they go outdoors…
Why is Time Outdoors in Nature so Important?
By spending too much time inside, we miss nature’s powers of restoration.
You don’t need expensive holidays or prolonged wilderness trips. Start small with a quick walk or even a barefoot 5-minutes in the park or garden.
My mission is to get as many people as possible to experience the riches and benefits of connecting with nature and being outdoors in the wild. But just saying that it ‘feels right’ isn’t enough if you haven’t experienced the benefits of outdoor time for yourself.
If you need more than just my say so on getting back to nature, here’s the scientific evidence behind my 11 reasons why getting outdoors into the wild is SO good for you. I’d go so far as to say imperative for all of us.
How to Get Outdoors More
After reading the evidence, check out these links for suggestions on how to get outside into nature. Take it a step at a time with go wild inside, connect with nature in the garden and then try these super cool ideas for connecting with nature outdoors in the wild.
11 Reasons To Get Back To Nature
- Fresh air
- Vitamin D
- Immune system boost
- Serotonin boost (improved mental health)
- Stronger bodies
- Less screen time
- Life skills
- Connect with nature & the seasons
- Exercise and activity
- Weather appreciation
1. Fresh Air Is Healthy
Oxygen boosts the immune system and being in fresh air and nature helps increase energy and vitality levels.
We need oxygen to survive and being in fresh air often has a deeply calming effect on us.
The fresher the air, the less pollutants are in it, saving our bodies energy we would otherwise expend eliminating toxins etc.
2. Vitamin D in Sunlight Increases Strength
Vitamin D helps the body regulate calcium and phosphate which are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and deficiency can lead to bone deformities in children and bone pain and tenderness in adults.
More than 50% of the UK’s adult population have insufficient levels of vitamin D with 16% suffering severe deficiency during winter and spring.
How to Increase Vitamin D Levels
Get outside with sunlight on your skin 2 to 3 times a week.
20-30 minutes of sunlight on the face, arms and legs where possible 2 to 3 times a week during summer should maintain healthy levels, with more exposure required in winter.
We don’t produce vitamin D by sitting in a sunny window as the glass blocks the UVB rays, and don’t forget to take care to avoid sun damage when outside.
3. Getting Dirty Boosts The Immune System
No more excuses, get outdoors, get muddy and dirty and let your wild kids get dirty too to boost immunity.
Recent studies regarding the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ show that early-life exposure to microbes found in soil shape the mammalian immune system by subduing inflammatory T cells in the lungs and colon, lowering susceptibility to asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases later in life.
4. Improve Mental Health & Depression with Serotonin
Microbes in dirt actually boost Serotonin levels!
Lack of the hormone Serotonin is linked to depression so taking the hygiene hypothesis a step further, research has found that exposure to Mycobacterium Vaccae, a harmless soil microbe, actually alters our vulnerability to mental health conditions such as depression.
The microbe can be inhaled when out walking or gardening, it can be ingested through water and eating plants picked from the garden or from carrot skins, for example (and presumably in Dead Sea mud…!).
So before you hit the chocolate for your next mood boost, try a little ‘outdoors’ instead.
5. Outdoor Exercise Creates Stronger Bodies
If we sit indoors or even use the gym, which targets only specific muscle groups at a time, we are not using our bodies in the same flexible, unstructured way.
The more active we are, the stronger our bodies become.
Equally, our lymph systems (our bodies’ waste disposal systems), help drive the immune system and kick bad bacteria, germs and even cancer cells out of the body. Lymph does not have a pump like our blood circulation (the heart) so the more we move, whether indoors or out, the better our lymph system is at keeping us healthy.
The Danish, listed as one of the happiest nations in the world almost annually since 1973, firmly believe in exercising outdoors. It was the Danes who created the Forest School movement which is changing the lives of thousands of British school children for the better.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness talks more about the art of cosy, contented happiness too!
6. Less Screen Time
There is a mass of Research regarding the effects of too much screen time on the human brain, on human behaviour and personality, including possible links to childhood disorders, sleep disruption and attention problems.
Before researching the science, I instinctively wanted Caroline to be screen-free for as long as possible – it seemed wrong for one so young to watch TV at all, almost lazy parenting on my part. We were TV-free to age two and since then screen time has been limited and vetted for value, and we absolutely never watch TV channels with adverts.
Getting outdoors minimises the use of screens, freeing us to interact properly with each other and nature, without the physical and mental barrier of a screen.
How to Get Your Kids off Screen
Here’s a little tip from Parent Co on how to get your kids off screens without major stress. I’ve tried it an it does work.
[The Kids of the Wild jury is out regarding Pokemon Go but currently erring on the side of it being a great way to get children outside if they would normally spend all day on a computer. However if your kids enjoy the outdoors already, they don’t need Pokemon Go anyway]
7. Improved Life Skills
Almost everything we do outdoors improves our life skills at some level, for example:-
- walking on rough ground or stepping over tree-roots in a forest trains muscles thus improving physical balance
- experiences in nature give us new things to share with others which improves language, vocabulary and conversation skills
- seeing unusual things outdoors increases our general knowledge
Even a simple activity such as tree climbing involves many life skills – testing muscles and strength, improving hand-eye coordination, building confidence, assessing and taking risks, facing fears, learning about gravity, problem solving and having FUN!
8. Connect With Nature, Rhythm & The Seasons
Someone recently commented to my sister that they were moving to the country after decades of city-dwelling because they “wanted to notice the changing seasons again.”
It sounds crazy but so often we get sucked into the work or school routine. In winter we often leave and return home in darkness and we don’t make the effort to go outside, or even look outside. Seasons come and go unnoticed.
Getting outdoors helps us regain those rhythms and cycles of life.
9. Appreciate The Weather
We’ve all read books whose characters describe an approaching storm or predict the weather. I yearned to be in tune with the elements like those old country folk!
Now, living a semi-rural existence I love watching clouds pass through, wondering if they will break, learning to smell impending rain.
You can only experience and appreciate the weather by getting outside regularly to notice nature’s cues and changes. This means getting the right outdoor gear and being prepared to have fun whether it’s raining, snowing or in the middle of a heatwave.
10. Exercise Boosts Immunity
It goes without saying that getting out and about increases movement which increases fitness. Exercise also increases killer cells, neutrophils and monocytes in the body, which ultimately increase immune function.
You can exercise anywhere, but it’s SO much better outside.
11. Nature Is A Great Teacher
Nature has so much to teach us, from actual biology and species-identification to handling life experiences such as birth and death and even how wildlife can teach wild kids about things such as sex education without embarrassment.
More Scientific Evidence
Research changes all the time so check back for the latest updates.
All Children Need 1 Hour a Day Outdoors
The Wildlife Trusts recent study by UCL’s Institute of Education on the effects of outdoor time on primary school children came out overwhelmingly in favour of ONE HOUR IN NATURE AT SCHOOL EVERY DAY! Here’s the research summary.
And here’s more research on outdoor learning benefits from Kings College London.
Increase Attention Span Outdoors
In addition to all the above scientific links, check out this short video from the World Economic Forum on increased attention spans in children who spend more time outdoors.
Green Space & Trees Improve Mental Health & Wellbeing
Read Neuroscience News’ report on how living near trees (Green Space) and ‘forest bathing’ increases amygdala health.
Blue Space & Water Improves Mental Health
Barcelona Health Institute’s new research on why living near water (Blue Space) is beneficial to mental health
More Research on 5 Minutes Outdoors
You have to be in it to win it though, so change your life by connecting with nature and getting outside TODAY.
Need Help Getting Outdoors?
These articles will give you ideas on how to get outdoors more and begin connecting with nature.
Ideas for Things To Do Outdoors & in Nature
Kids don’t like walking?
Lots of tips to encourage them in 10 ways to make walking with kids wonderful
Need Parental Moral Support?
Make space to find time for yourself. I call it Oxygen Time, read more in energy for partenting, energy for life
It’s really easy to be the best wild parent in the world with these suggestions and ideas.
No more excuses, let’s get into the wild now!