Perhaps it’s because we bought the boat, or simply bacause we enjoy all those walks on Hampstead Heath; or perhaps it’s because I’m trying to cycle to work regularly; or maybe it’s simply that I’m rapidly closing in on the big FiveO; that I find myself thinking more and more about the benefits of simply being outdoors.
Here are my Top 10 Reasons to go Outside:
1. To ‘get away from it all’ – Going outside gives me an opportunity to forget about the phone, TV, internet, and to-do lists. Given I tend to carry my hectic schedule wherever I go, getting outdoors and ‘walking through’ that schedule is a good way to find balance and recharge my body and mind.
2. To simply get moving! – In this increasingly sedentary, virtual world I find it’s increasingly necessary to find time to just get moving. I feel better for stretch my legs over a variety of terrain. In our air conditioned, soft and smooth civilized society, I think we’ve literally lost touch with the natural environment around us. So why not try going barefoot? And see what I mean about being insensitive to our natural surroundings!
3. To get a bit of vitamin D-packed sun on my face – evidence shows that getting sufficient vitamin D is an essential part of maintaining a healthy immune system.
4. To take chances, and develop independence – I touched on this in a post the other day; as children we take chances all the time as we come to terms with the physical world, we climb and jump and stretch and hang and get to know our body well. As we get older we become more hesitant, more conservative and less agile. Going outside tempts me to climb that tree, lift that boulder, skim that stone, haul that rope, pull in that boat and generally get more in touch with the physical me I’ve become increasingly estranged from.
5. It’s good for my eyes – In my mostly seated lifestyle, I tend to spend most of the day focusing my eyes directly in front of me whether looking at a computer screen or dry paperwork. However, in going outdoors, there’s no computer screen to stare at. Given our pupils contract, similar to muscles, when looking at various distances, simply by walking around outdoors, I’m giving my eyes a workout, and a chance to focus on the ground in front of me, the landscape around me and the water road ahead.
6. To 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 blog post. Listen to birds, smell the trees, watch the animation of the water, feel the wind and the heat of the sun. 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. To get some fresh air – Depending on where you live, going outside involves breathing fresh air. There are fewer toxic chemicals in the great outdoors – less detergents, plastics, building materials to touch or breathe in; or noise pollution to clutter your thoughts.
8. Better mental clarity, longer attention span – American 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. With young twin boys it’s all hands on deck, and I need all the attention and focus I can get to keep them safe!
9. Boost energy levels – Going outdoors has unseen therapeutic effects that actually increase your energy levels, and that can’t be a bad thing eh?
10) A new, tangible community – When I step outside the door, I have a chance to enter a concrete world of sensations, I not only see and hear, but can touch, taste and smell things too, I can immerse myself in the vividness of living. By walking on the Heath or exploring the Cut, I’m constantly making new connections with people and places, with ideas, memories and associations.
We could be the last generation to remember a time when it was considered normal and expected for children to play in woods and fields. When we leave this earth, will the memory of such experiences leave with us? Reconnecting the young to the natural world (as we reconnect ourselves) could be our greatest, most redemptive cause.
We’re off to the boat at the weekend, all five of us, regardless of the weather. I can’t wait!