Most people I meet have Nature Deficit Disorder. That’s just a fancy way of saying they don’t get outdoors much, and are not in-tune with the natural world they live in. Frank Forencich refers to this as likened unto being aliens on our own planet. Erwan Le Corre calls it the zoo human syndrome. I’m sure various governing bodies call it the “epidemic of inactivity.” Call it whatever you want, the truth of the matter is that most people don’t get outside much. If you’re a regular reader here, then you know I’m always recommending that you get outdoors as much as possible. There are many good reasons for this, and it’s a little more than just “good ‘ol advice.”
I remember my mother telling me to go play outside when I was a kid. It was supposed to be good for me, but I didn’t understand that then, and I would have much rather played video games or watch TV. Mom was right though, and there’s a lot of wisdom contained in that simple phrase, “go play outside.”
Top 10 Reasons to go Outside
1) Get “away” from it all - Going outside gives you an opportunity to forget about the phone, TV, internet, and to-do lists. We tend to carry our hectic schedule wherever we go, and getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge our body and mind.
2) Get moving! – Going outdoors will inspire you to move. You can stretch your legs, or use them over a variety of terrain. This creates a greater development of coordination and the muscles which stabilize the body. Soft and smooth surfaces adorn almost every floor of civilized society, so much so that we’ve literally lost touch with the natural environment around us. Try going barefoot, and you’ll see what I mean about being insensitive to your natural surroundings.
The world is always in movement. – V. S. Naipaul
3) Get some sunshine that is packed full of vitamin D – Getting enough vitamin D is super-important for maintaining a healthy immune system. This vitamin has been proven to help prevent osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer disease. It also may help in the prevention of Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. You know just as well as I do that supplements don’t really cut it, go for the natural source in the sun.
4) Get an opportunity to take chances, and develop independence – Going outdoors is a little more risky than staying in the safety of the confined indoors. This is an opportunity to try new things, to develop new skills, and test yourself in unique ways such as climbing a tree.
5) It’s good for your eyes – In our mostly seated culture, we tend to focus our eyes directly in front of us when looking at a computer screen or paperwork. There is no overstimulating TV or computer to stare at when you step out into mother nature. Your pupils contract, similar to muscles, when looking at various distances. Simply by walking around outdoors, your eyes have a chance to both focus on the ground in front of you and the landscape around you, which is great exercise for TV and monitor over-stimulated eyes.
Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. -Henry David Thoreau
6) Get in better touch with nature – There is so much to be experienced out in nature, it’s almost silly to try to classify it in a blogpost. Listen to birds, smell the trees, feel the wind and the heat of the sun. Watch an animal going about its daily routine. Enough said.
To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. – Helen Keller
7) Get some fresh air – Depending on where you live, going outside involves breathing fresh air. There are no toxic chemicals in the great outdoors – no cleaners, detergents, plastics, building materials to touch or breathe in.
Fresh air makes me throw up. I can’t handle it. I’d rather be around three Denobili cigars blowing in my face all night. -Frank Sinatra
8 ) Better mental clarity, longer attention span – Researchers Marc Berman, John Jonides and Stephen Kaplan found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature. They also believe the findings could have broader impact on helping people who may be suffering from mental fatigue. ya think? (study here)
9) Boost energy levels – Going outdoors has unseen therapeutic effects that actually increase your energy levels, and no one can argue with that!
When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race. -Wendell Berry
10) A new, tangible community – When you step outside your doors, you have a chance to enter a whole new environment – not just physically, but relationally too. By visiting a park, climbing a mountain, or sailing a lake you can make new connections with people that would have never been possible. You will learn more about someone from one hour of playing outside than you will in a year of working with them.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. – Anne Frank (one of my favorite authors)
The Bottom Line
It’s funny how we know something is right, even good for us, and yet we still need reminders constantly. Do we really need a top 10 list of reasons why going outside is good for us? I mean, come on – we all know that going outdoors is good medicine, just like we know that getting regular exercise is good for us. I think the problem we are facing is not a lack of useful information, but a lack of compliance and sustainability. Most people either don’t enjoy going outdoors, or they reserve it only for special, infrequent occasions.
That’s the root of the problem right there.
Many health and fitness programs recommend spending time outdoors, listing a selection of benefits similar to the ones above. Sometimes, these programs produce good short-term results, but mostly they teach people to focus on the wrong thing: the benefits (or the consequences of NOT following the program).
I’d like to offer you a different approach to health and fitness. I want you to seek after experiences that are rewarding in and of themselves, activities that you will do for their own sake. Going outside is fun, even liberating for some people. It can change your entire perspective if you’ll allow it.
Even though setting specific goals is an essential part of training, long-term lifestyle transformation can only be sustained when you’re enjoying the process itself. So, I want you to try things that you just love to do outside. Play games or sports, make it a priority to have fun, and dare something worthy. Health benefits and consequences are distractions that take us away from the task at hand. Instead, focus on the journey, that is your new lifestyle.
If you don’t know where to start, just try taking your current fitness program outdoors. I hike, climb, swim, swing clubbells, practice Prasara Yoga, and explore bodyweight exercise outside almost year round.
To your health and success,