These days technology is getting to the point where it can do a huge amount for us. In fact, it can do so much that it can almost remove the need for us to move all that much ourselves. Our computers, game consoles and phones can entertain us, keep us in contact with friends and family and provide us with all the news and information we need. We can work online and we can shop online. So what reason is there left to go outside?
Well, from a health standpoint there are actually plenty of reasons to go outside. That’s right: the simple act of being outside can do an awful lot to improve your health and wellness in numerous ways. If you must stay glued to your phone then, you might at least want to consider taking it outdoors with you…
To help give you the motivation you need to consider doing this, let’s take a look at just what would happen to you if you never went outside at all…
The Role of Vitamin D
Something you may have heard about being outside, is that it’s good for your body because it helps you to produce vitamin D. Sunlight doesn’t actually contain vitamin D, but rather it causes a reaction with cholesterol stored in your skin that ultimately results in ‘activated’ vitamin D called ‘Calcitriol’. This is a very important part of our diet because it helps us to absorb and use calcium, which in turn is used to strengthen and grow our bones. In short, sunlight travels 149,600,000 km from the sun to our skin, where it converts the fat from our food into a vitamin that can help us to improve our bone density. Pretty amazing when you think about it, and without it you would find that your bones became much weaker and more prone to breaking. You might eventually start suffering with osteoporosis and rickets too and combined with the lack of pigmentation in your skin, you’d end up looking a rather ill and sickly individual.
Vitamin D has also been shown to be important for immune function, as well as for combating cancer, heart disease and depression. That’s part of the reason that people in colder climates are more likely to suffer with conditions like ‘SAD’ – or seasonal affective disorder. You might not ‘like’ going outside as such, but you’d still be a lot happier if you did!
It’s not just the sun that’s good for you outside though. Also important is the chance to submerge yourself in the calming environments provided by nature and to enjoy some green grass, swaying trees and blues skies.
That’s because natural environments have been shown to calm heart rates and to reduce blood pressure. In fact even the act of just looking at the colour green has been shown to have psychological benefits – and just putting a potted plant on your desktop at work could well make your day much more bearable.
Furthermore, brain imaging studies have shown that natural sights and sounds activate parts of the brain associated with stability, empathy and love – while man-made structures that you would encounter indoors can lead to feelings of stress and fear. So if you never went outside, you wouldn’t just be more sickly and ill looking, you’d also be much more stressed and anxious – and quite possibly depressed.
Another benefit of being outside is that you will get fresh air – which is especially good for you if you’re outside near the sea or up the top of a mountain somewhere. When we’re indoors, we are invariably breathing air that has been ‘recycled’ around the room numerous times and breathed by many other people who have colds and other illnesses. You’ll probably also be near a road somewhere, so you can expect to be breathing in lots of smog and smoke and generally stuff that isn’t good for your lungs.
Breathing fresh air outside on the other hand can help to clear out your lungs and give your immune system a break from all the nasty stuff in that recycled air. Near the beach you’ll also get to benefit from the salt content of the air which has antibacterial properties.
The more time you spend indoors then, the more likely you are to catch colds and sniffles – further contributing to your gradually degeneration into Gollum from Lord of the Rings…
On top of all this, there are also a number of factors associated with being outside that are also very good for you. For instance, if you’re outside then you’re more likely to walk around and to be getting exercise, and if you’re inside then you’re more likely to be sitting at a computer.
So if you never went outside, you probably wouldn’t get much exercise which would result in your muscles wasting away. Sitting more has also been shown to be correlated with instances of type 2 diabetes and heart disease resulting in a shorter life expectancy.
So as well as being a pale, short, weak and depressed individual, if you never went outside you’d also be much more likely to die early. So get outside, get some exercise and take a walk. You’ll be happier and healthier and you’ll live longer. Can’t say much fairer than that!