In this day and age, more and more people are spending less time outside and more time indoors doing stationary activities. After all, with the world wide web at your fingertips, you can do everything online, from shopping to meeting up with friends on social media. Recent years have also seen a rise in physical and mental health disorders. Could the two things be related? Could the fact that we're not getting outside into the fresh air be hurting our overall health?
There is a reason so many people put up landscapes and pictures of the outdoors in their homes. Even looking at an image of nature gives you a sense of calm and helps you feel more at peace. However, actually going out and getting into the fresh air is an activity that offers incredible health benefits. It doesn't matter what you are doing — strolling to the park, hiking in the mountains, wading at the beach — fresh air is a crucial part of living a fuller, healthier life. Even getting outside in the crisp, cold air of winter helps you in innumerable ways.
If you are wondering if you should leave the house more often, the answer is yes. Here are five benefits you receive by getting out and getting fresh air.
1. Fresh Air Can Improve Your Digestion, Blood Pressure and Immunity
When you get outside and breathe deeply, you're actually increasing the amount of oxygen your body takes in. If you live in a polluted area, like a populated city, be sure to take the time to get away to places where the air is cleaner. Fresh, clean air and more oxygen provide tons of overall health benefits, including:
- Helping your body digest food more effectively
- Improving your blood pressure
- Maintaining white blood cell function
2. Fresh Air Can Sharpen Your Mind
If you have a desk job or work in an office building, you have probably noticed that stepping outside is a great way to clear your head. You may have thought that it was just stepping away from your desk, but when you go outside and breathe deeply, you get more oxygen which improves brain function. So basically, getting fresh air increases your ability to concentrate.
3. Fresh Air Can Clear Your Lungs
When you are indoors all the time, you are breathing stale, recirculated air which makes your lungs work harder to get the oxygen you need. In addition, most cities struggle with air pollution which can lead to an increased risk of lung diseases like asthma.
Getting out and breathing fresh air in a clean environment helps clear your lungs out. They dilate more when taking in fresh air, so you're able to take deeper longer breaths. You also release airborne toxins from your body when you exhale from your lungs.
4. Fresh Air Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Breathing in fresh air in the great outdoors, either by camping, hiking or getting out into a natural environment in some other way is associated with reduced stress and anxiety. Those who spend time in these environments tend to be more relaxed and have lower blood pressure and low amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.
Some believe this is due to phytoncides that linger in the fresh forest air. These are airborne chemicals released by plants and trees to protect against insects and rot and also may be linked to stress reduction.
5. Fresh Air Can Make You Happier and Help with Depression
Another positive outcome from breathing fresh air and getting more oxygen is that it allows your body to increase the amount of serotonin it produces. Serotonin is also called the happy hormone because it is vital to maintaining a healthy emotional state and feelings of well-being. Decreased serotonin has been associated with depression.
Being Active Is Good for Your Mental Health
In 1859, Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen coined the word friluftsliv, which loosely means "free air life." The word encompasses the idea of enjoying nature and staying active outdoors. Scandanavians understood even then that nature had a powerful effect on one's physical and mental health.
Although fresh air and outdoor activities are just a few steps outside our front door, few take advantage of them as much as they should. If you're struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, take the time to get outside every day. Fresh air and staying active may help you as part of your journey towards a healthier outlook.