Q&A: What are the consequences of not spending enough time outdoors?

June 2022
By: Sesame Staff with Dr. Allison Edwards

Now that summer is in full swing, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside more often, which is a vital part of your mental and physical wellbeing. We spoke to Sesame's Medical Director, Dr. Allison Edwards, about some of the reasons why outdoor time is so important in your everyday life.

Q: What are some physical and mental symptoms you might experience if you don't get enough time outside?

A: Getting outside is so important for your mental and physical well-being. Just like your mom may have always told you, the sun gives you vitamin D – and your body needs that to stay well. She was right! If you don’t get outside enough, you may experience lower levels of vitamin D, which can lead to low bone density.

You also may feel down or antsy, or perhaps may not sleep well. You might feel tired, groggy or have low energy. Sunlight and fresh air help us with all of these issues. Of course, you want to balance a healthy amount of sun exposure with making sure you are taking steps to protect against the detrimental effects of sunlight that can lead to skin cancer. The good news is that you can take in the positive effects of being outside and being exposed to nature, while also using an adequate amount of sun protection!

Moreover, exposure to the outdoors and nature has been linked with improved mood, less anxiety.

There are also the obvious benefits of being outdoors – usually also correlated with getting exercise, which has vast positive effects for people, like lessening the symptoms of depression, for one.

Q: How may some of these signs or symptoms present?

A: You may notice a lot of the mood-based signs yourself – you might feel tired or just “blah.” You may feel antsy or more on edge, worried or anxious about things if you have been cooped up inside a lot.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms or issue at hand, your friends or family may notice if you’re not seeming like yourself.

Q: How soon can you expect to see improvement of these symptoms once you start going outside?

A: It really can vary based on how cooped up you may have been or how severe the issue has become. If it’s been a busy week at work and maybe you haven’t gone outside as much as usual, you can usually notice improvements right away if you add it back into your routine.

Q: How much time should people spend outside?

A: As much as possible! I recommend that my patients get at least 30 minutes of some sort of movement a day, and it’s an added bonus if they can get this movement outside, like in the form of a walk.

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Medical disclaimer

Sesame content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern, it is critical to seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions. If you are facing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room immediately.