Most Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While there's nothing wrong with plopping down on the couch to watch a movie or lounging in your indoor living space, it's a good idea to make it a point to get outside as much as you can – and not just for the fresh air, although the EPA estimates indoor air may be 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside.
What can being outside do for your health?
The short answer is: a lot. While it definitely feels good to breathe in outdoor air after being inside for a while, the health benefits of being outside go beyond that. When you spend more time outside, you're more likely to enjoy:
- More physical activity (which can improve your heart and overall health)
- Diminished feelings of pain
- Reduced stress
- A healthier immune system
- Better mood and higher levels of happiness
- Improved concentration
- Higher vitamin D levels (if you get some sunshine on your skin)
How long should you stay outside to reap health benefits?
You don't need to spend tons of time outside to reap health benefits. In fact, one study pointed out that you need as little as 120 minutes per week, which averages to just slightly over 17 minutes a day. Keep in mind that the type of outdoor space you're in makes a difference, too. While you have to work with what you've got, people in greener areas tend to notice more of an improvement in their health from being outside. That doesn't mean you're out of luck if you live in a city, but it's a good idea to seek out green areas when possible, like local parks, nature trails or botanical gardens.
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Date Last Reviewed: April 13, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor