As children, many of us may have taken recess and other outdoor play time for granted. As we got older, our outdoor time became more limited as our to-do lists got longer. It seems we gave up our outdoor time in order to become more productive and get more accomplished with our free time. But now the studies are in. Taking breaks, especially outside, has been shown to lead to healthier and happier lives, as well as contribute to increased overall production. The evidence further shows that the health benefits increase if that outdoor time is coupled with exercise, even if it’s just a stroll.
Studies show that breaks from work that are spent outside can help:
Boost creativity - Walking outside has been proven to boost creative thoughts, both during the walk and shortly after. Test subjects found themselves 81% more creative during or shortly after walking, than when they took the same evaluation seated.
Improve concentration - Children with ADHD were actually shown to be able to concentrate better after being outdoors. So if you’re having trouble concentrating, there’s a very strong chance that leaving the office and spending some time in the fresh air will provide that physical pick-me-up that you may need just in time to tackle that to-do list.
Boost vitamin D levels - this goes hand-in-hand with boosting immunity but catching some rays boosts your vitamin D levels. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for healthy bones as well as a healthy immune system. Research has shown that between 5 and 30 minutes (depending on your skin tone and your location) of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm at least twice a week is sufficient for Vitamin D synthesis.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Alleviate symptoms of depression - researchers in the UK found that spending just 5 minutes outside performing an enjoyable task can boost your self-confidence and mood. It also helps improve cognitive function and has been shown to enhance performance on directed-attention tasks.
When we work all day in a cubicle or office, whether it’s in a corporate building or in our homes, we often don’t go outside until the day is done. This means that all winter long, we very rarely get actual daylight hours outside. This is completely counter to how our bodies were meant to experience the day. To help combat this you could even just sit outside without your phone and daydream (read more on this fun topic here!). You would notice these improvements, however, these benefits are greater when your break includes a physical activity like walking or biking.
Ideas for breaks outside:
Host that meeting while walking. Some of the best brainstorming is done while on foot. Steve Jobs was even known for his walking meetings.
Eat your lunch outside rather than at your desk or in a break room
Turn everyday moments into mini-breaks! Park far away at the grocery store and walk. Walk to any and as many events nearby as you can!
And if you absolutely don’t have the time to step outside for a break, studies have also shown that just looking at photos of nature also has a positive impact on cognitive improvement.
Obviously, I’m biased. I think working outside regardless of the weather is almost always better, but now we see that research agrees that you should be able to take the time you need to go outside and reset.