Don’t retreat indoors this Autumn!
According to a 2017 survey of 1000 adults in the UK, on average we spend over 90% of our time indoors on a weekday. And in the winter months, the situation is even worse, with us spending 90 minutes less per day outside.
Why does it matter? Research suggests that as a species, we’re evolved to be outside far more than modern lifestyles allow. Everything from our sleep patterns to our air quality is affected by access to the outdoors. Our bodies are designed to be more alert in daylight, and to rest at evening times. The combination of staying inside more and using artificial light means the number of people with sleep disorders is on the rise.
Exposure to natural light helps our performance during the day as well. A study published by Public Health Europe found that children with access to daylight in their classrooms progressed through work up to 25% faster. And access to natural views for office workers also increase s productivity and wellbeing.
So as the nights draw in and the weather gets cooler and wetter, don’t hit the sofa! Our modern lifestyles conspire to keep us indoors: our modes of travel, places of work and even places of exercise (gyms, sports halls and swimming pools) are all likely to be indoors, whereas the reverse was true 200 years ago.
Which means we need to plan in our outdoor time rather than leave it to chance. Here are some ways you can build in regular time outside. It doesn’t have to be strenuous or in the wilds: every extra minute we can spend outdoors is good for our bodies and wellbeing.
Set a timer
Set a timer on your phone or computer, and after every hour, go for a short break outside. This could be a five minute walk, or even just a couple of minutes getting some fresh air. Think about the breaks smokers take to get their fix – this is far better for you!
Have outdoor days
If your lifestyle doesn’t give you much chance to be outside, for example if you drive to work and school, set a couple of days in the week where you guarantee you’ll be outside for at least 30 minutes. It might be that every Monday and Thursday you take the children to the park after school, or wrap up in coats and blankets and eat snacks outside after a walk. Choose something realistic, that you can fit into your day or evening, but then make it non-negotiable so it becomes a habit.
Switch the commute
Aim to travel on foot, by bike, or by bus for some of your regular journeys each week. Set yourself a weekly target of, say, 2 or 4 journeys a week and see how often you can get outside. If you do need to drive each day, try to find parking a little further from your destination to build in more outdoor time that way.
Borrow a dog!
Having a dog is a great way to ensure you have regular walks, giving you daily doses of the outdoors. If you don’t have a dog, see if you can help out a friend or neighbour with walking their dog every so often. Or the website Borrow My Doggy matches owners with willing dog walkers and sitters locally.
Change your fitness regime
If you’re currently a gym member, save yourself some money and get more fresh air by switching to an outdoor fitness class or running instead. Or see if there’s a Good Gym near you – a scheme that combines walking and running with doing good deeds for local communities.
We hope that’s inspired you to find achievable ways to get outdoors each day during the busy Autumn season! Don’t forget to stock up on warm and waterproof clothing to keep you feeling snug and dry, then you’ll be happy to stay outdoors even longer!