There are few simple pleasures in life that feel quite as nice as stepping outside and getting a deep breath of fresh air. Science shows that going outside does more than just feel good, too — it can have some very surprising health benefits. Here are 5 reasons you should spend more time outside:
1. It helps clear your lungs.
Indoor air often has a suboptimal balance of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, especially in enclosed rooms with poor ventilation. While having indoor plants can help, absolutely nothing beats stepping outside for fresh air. Fresh air generally has higher levels of oxygen (not to mention lower levels of pollution) than indoor air. Exposure to more oxygen causes the blood vessels in your lungs to dilate, which improves cleansing and tissue repair within them, and helps them exchange gases more easily. You clean up your lungs and help your body get rid of things it doesn’t need, all in one go.
2. It can give you more energy and mental focus.
As your lungs take in more fresh air, the oxygen levels in your blood go up. Higher oxygen levels mean more of it circulates to your brain, which helps you feel energized and improves your ability to concentrate and remember information. A study at the Human cognitive Neuroscience Unit in Northumbria found that subjects given oxygen versus regular air performed up to 20% better on a memory test. It can also help promote the production of serotonin, allowing you to feel happier and less anxious. You’ll get a clearer, sharper, calmer mind, and all it takes is a few breaths of fresh air.
3. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to function. When there isn’t enough to go around, your heart needs to work harder to make sure that what’s available gets to where it needs to go. Fresh air has plenty of oxygen, so a few deep breaths helps to bring in more of this vital gas to your body. This means your heart can relax, since it takes less effort to deliver what your body needs. End result? Your heart rate slows down, and your blood pressure lowers.
4. It helps you heal faster.
Healing from illness and injuries is pretty taxing on the body. Since every cell requires oxygen, it makes sense that replacing damaged cells increases your body’s demand for air. While oxygen therapy has been shown to help improve recovery time for athletes, fresh air can help you feel better and heal faster, too.
5. It can improve your digestion.
Sometimes, it isn’t just oxygen that helps our bodies — the simple act of stepping away and getting outside does, too. When we’re stuck eating at our desks, or grabbing a bite here and there between tasks, the body has to divert blood flow from our digestive systems to our brains. It’s even worse when we’re stressed out, since or fight-or-flight response pushes blood too our muscles in case we need to escape. Going outside to relax and enjoy some fresh air doesn’t just supply our cells with much-needed oxygen, it also tells our bodies that it’s okay to digest and supplies our stomachs and intestines with vital blood flow.
Fresh air and sunlight can help improve our well-being across multiple areas, from making us feel happier and more relaxed, to having a measurable effect on our circulatory systems, recovery time, and overall health. If you find yourself feeling stressed, tired, sluggish, or even just bloated, step outside and take a few good, deep breaths of fresh air. Your body and your mind will thank you.