Benefits of Spending Time Outside

Spending time outdoors provides many benefits for the mind and body. As a physical therapist, I preach the importance of maintaining a regular means of exercise to all of my patients. It is important to find a form of exercise that we enjoy and that we can stick with for the long term to see improvements. Spending meaningful time outside is also a great way of finding inner peace. We must remember how crucial it is for us to not just take care of our bodies but to focus on promoting mental health as well. When we get outside many of our regular distractions fade away and we can engage in something that allows us to be alone with our thoughts. We must remember to take meaningful time to do these mental check-ins to see how we are really doing.

Attentional restoration theory is a framework that describes the “hard fascination” that occurs in urban environments that forces our attention to be captured. When spending time in nature our minds tap into “soft fascination” which is when our attention is captured automatically which then provides feelings of pleasure.1 There are countless ways we can obtain soft fascination outdoors. Whether it is walking the dog at night and enjoying the crisp outdoor air and spotting a shooting star or gardening and seeing the first flower bloom on a plant, find the activity that gives you pleasure and work to keep a routine to serve you the best. Filling ourselves with these pleasurable experiences that we set out for helps us filter our minds away from the distractions that keep us from truly finding joy in the little things.

Spending time outside provides us a good playing field to exert ourselves in ways that break up the regular daily routine. It is important to maintain a consistent form of exercise to see the benefits gained over time and doing so with things that we enjoy promotes this consistency. Starting low and slow to see how your body responds to new activities over time is recommended but remember to push yourself to do more when the time is appropriate. Try not to wait for the perfect day to get outdoors because who knows when that day will come. Take advantage of the present time and make the most of the situations we are given. When we feel sluggish it is easy to fall into a rut of inactivity, but being active and engaging in time outdoors is a proven way to increase energy levels.2

Since childhood, many of us remember our parents emphasizing the importance of spending time outside, not just to give them some peace and quiet but to help us get our energy out, use our imagination, play in nature, and maintain a higher level of health and wellness. All of these things still hold true as we get older. Each of us needs to find time to get outside of our 4 walls and enjoy the perks of what life outside can provide. There’s a whole world out there waiting for us, let’s get outside and enjoy it!

Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy is here to help if you are experiencing pain or injury that limits your ability to enjoy the great outdoors. Feel free to call 616.256.8679 or reach out to any of our locations to see how we can help keep you going and get you back outside!

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/
  2. https://www.americansportandfitness.com/blogs/fitness-blog/the-benefits-of-outdoor-workouts-for-well-being

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Matthew Mallory, DPT