People are spending increasingly more time indoors. This is even worse for people who work desk jobs and drive to work.
All they do is walk to their parked cars, drive to work, sit at their desks possibly all day then walk back to their cars, drive to their homes and park right outside their doors.
At least people who commute walk to and from the bus stop and spend more time outdoors.
One study twenty years ago found that people spend up to 93% of their time indoors. As our shelters have become larger and studier, the time we spend in them has similarly increased.
Our bodies are built to anticipate the outdoors and this break in expected cycles has significant effects on our physical and mental health.
1. Lack of vitamin D
Exposure to vitamin D aka the sunshine vitamin is critical for overall health. It is named sunshine vitamin because exposure to the sun is the primary source of vitamin D. Although it is possible to get vitamin D through diet, it still is not sufficient because most of it is made by our skin through exposure to sunlight.
An increasing number of adults have poor eyesight with research linking this to not spending enough time outdoors as children. Being outdoors trains the eyes to see distant objects and with children spending more time indoors, their eyes are learning to focus only on nearby items which leads their eyesight to suffer. Developing eyes need exposure to good quality light which cannot be found indoors. In Singapore for example, 85% of young people have myopia compared to only 30% of the older generation.
3. Anxiety, depression & moodiness
Being sedentary, less social with less interactive and outdoor activities where you are exposed to the sun has a negative impact on mood. Anxiety and depression both go up when people are inside for extended lengths of time. Sunlight leads to an increase in serotonin which is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin are linked to mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Exposure to the sun increases levels of serotonin.
4. Sleep trouble and appetite changes
The moodiness and depression linked to little exposure to sunlight compromises sleep leading to tossing and turning. Sunlight also contributes to the working of the body’s internal clock also known as the circadian rhythm. Natural light and other external environmental let the body know to stay awake during the day and cue the brain to release melatonin to help us sleep at night. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, go out for a few minutes during the day, this exposure to the sun during the day will help you sleep.
5. Weakened immune system
Vitamin D is a key nutrient in strengthening the immune system. Stress and loneliness from being cooped up indoors can also weaken the immune system over time, making you more susceptible to germs and compromising your ability to fight off disease.
Staying indoors for extended periods can also lead to overwhelming amounts of hopelessness or lethargy. So if you find yourself consistently low on energy, physical or otherwise, it may be time to head outside and catch some sun rays.