So let me ask you a question- as an adult, how often do you go outside?
Your answer is probably affected by a multitude of factors: where you live, the weather, your cultural background (for example- if you’re Norwegian, you probably go outside often, no matter what the weather is!) if you have kids, etc.
Personally, I have found that it would be so easy to not go outside very often as an adult. Really, between work, the gym, and cooking dinner, it could end up that the only time I’m outside is when I’m walking to and from my car. But, alas, that usually not the case. I usually go outside, even when it’s cold and windy. I go outside when it’s rainy as well as sunny. Why? Because I have a dog!
Jon and I have a sweet lab mix (Persie is 1/2 lab, 1/4 miniature poodle, 1/4 golden retriever) puppy with a lot of energy, and we also live in an apartment, so space is limited indoors for him to run around and play. This means we have to take turns walking him, or we walk him together, in order for Persie to get all his energy out.
But it’s not just good for the dog, it’s good for us too. The American College of Sports Medicine has long recommend Americans walk 150 minutes a week, which averages to five 30 minute walks. A lot of people have trouble getting that time in, but since Jon and I got a dog, we don’t really have an option. And I’m thankful for it.
But, not only is regular bouts of walking outside good for fitness and health purposes, I’ve found that it’s also good for me mentally and emotionally.
Don’t just take my word for it. According to a study done at the University of Michigan, group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression and perceived stress, and enhance mental well-being. Another study done by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, at the University of Glasgow concluded “that physical activity in natural environments is associated with a reduction in the risk of poor mental health.” Going outside is good for your mental health and it’s also good for your cognitive functionality, according to a research report done by the University of Michigan.
Pediatrician Harvey Karp writes, in the Happiest Toddler on the Block (which I admittedly have not read all the way through, and I do not have a toddler, although I probably will read it when I do have kids.) that children are both overstimulated and bored while indoors. “Our homes are boring because they replace the exciting sensations of nature (the feeling of the wind on their skin, the brilliant sun, the soft grass, etc.) with an immense stillness (flat walls, flat floors, no wind). ” But also overstimulating- “It bombards them with jolting experiences that kids in the past never had to deal with: crazy cartoons, slick videos, clanging computer games, noisy toys, and bright colors everywhere…which can make many little children feel stressed.”
I don’t have any toddlers of my own, but I can see how this would be true. After starring at a computer all day, and my phone, and perhaps my kindle or TV, I can get that overstimulated, but bored/restless feeling.
Now, I am not anti-indoors by any means! I love cuddling up on the couch with a good book. That’s one of my happy places. But I’ve also found- and as the studies show, I am not the only who thinks this- I am happiest when I get some time outside. Even when I have to bundle up!
What do you think? Is it worth it to you to go outside, even when it’s cold?
(Disclaimer: This post definitely doesn’t mean everyone should get a dog! Yes, dogs are great for encouraging you to be more active and go outside more, but they are also a big responsibilty. Plus- you don’t have to have a dog or children to go outside! You can go on your own and listen to a podcast, or just go outside and reflect on the day.)