The Top 7 Health Benefits of Time Outdoors – Updated 2024

How Tos & Tips

More time in nature is great for the simple fact that it allows you to soak up the sun, breathe some fresh air, and reconnect with the earth. That said, there are also some proven health benefits that can be gleaned from spending more time outdoors. These awesome benefits make spending time outside even more appealing and are one of the reasons why we love RV camping and why we want to encourage you to get outside. At this point, you might be wondering how exactly being outdoors impacts health. Below are seven health benefits of time outdoors.

More Vitamin D

The first and most obvious benefit of spending time outdoors is the fact that sunlight hitting the skin prompts the liver and kidneys to jump into gear and begins the creation of vitamin D in the body. Since you’re bound to see more sunlight while spending time in nature, you’re also going to create more vitamin D during your time outside. 

Believe it or not, a large number of Americans are walking around everyday with a vitamin D deficiency. This deficiency compromises the immune system and leads to depression, heart attacks, and stroke. 

Generally speaking, upping your vitamin D levels is as easy as making a point of getting outside when the sun is shining. However, it should be noted that factors such as age and skin tone can affect how well the body produces vitamin D. 

Additionally, wearing sunscreen will protect your skin from burning and cancer, but will prevent that vitamin D production. For this reason, we recommend limited sun exposure such as short walks without sunscreen. Sunscreen should always be applied during long stints in the sun though, especially if you’ll be out midday. 

Increased Exercise

Another of the biggest outdoors health benefits is increased exercise. It’s no secret that getting up and moving is incredibly important for our bodies. We simply weren’t built to be sedentary creatures. 

Exercise helps us maintain a healthy body weight. It also helps keep joints and muscles in tip-top shape, and because getting moving increases endorphin levels, exercise can even improve your moods and stress levels. 

You definitely don’t have to be outside to get exercise. However, because the outdoors provides more space to move around and encourages walking and other physical activities, you are more likely to get more exercise when spending time in nature. The lack of electronic devices outdoors is also a major motivator that many of us need. This is true for people of all ages, but it’s especially true for children.

Improved Mood and Less Stress

Natural light has a way of lifting one’s spirits. Exercise has a similar effect, and because being outdoors promotes physical exercise, making a point of being outdoors can actually make you a happier person. 

According to research by the University of Essex, outdoor exercise offers more mental health benefits than indoor exercise. Their 2010 study told us that just 5 minutes of exercise in a green space will result in improved mood and self esteem. This result goes hand-in-hand with their research about the huge mental health benefits that go along with living near green, open spaces. 

Another study was done in Japan. Some students were sent into the forest for two nights, while others stayed in the city as normal. Those students who spent time in the forest returned with lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that is used as a marker for stress. Meanwhile, those who spent that time in the city saw no change in stress level. 

In May of 2024, Talker Research conducted a survey showed that those who spent time outside said:

  • 68% say it relaxes them 
  • 66% say it puts them in a better mood 
  • 64% said it helps them clear their head 

Better Focus

Have you heard of “nature-deficit disorder”? This is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv suggests that many of the children labeled as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are likely suffering from a lack of outside play, which leads to hyperactivity and difficulty focusing. 

As it turns out, Louv may not be far off the mark. A study published in 2008 found that children diagnosed with ADHD would score higher on a concentration test if they first took a walk through a park. Children with ADHD who walked through a neighborhood or downtown area did not see these same improvements, suggesting that spending time exercising not only outdoors, but in green spaces, does have an effect on a person’s ability to focus. 

This is not the only research that has given such results. If you’re having trouble focusing, a nice hike in nature could prove beneficial. 

Better Short-Term Memory

Have trouble remembering things? Seeing as another of our favorite outdoors health benefits is improved memory, it might be time for some outdoor activity. 

A study done by the University of Michigan divided students into two groups, both of which were given a test. After that test, one group was sent on a walk around an arboretum, while the second group walked down a city street.

Upon returning, both groups were given the same test. The group that took the arboretum walk did almost 20% better on the test overall. Meanwhile, those who walked in the city did not improve with any consistency.

This suggests that walking in nature can boost short-term memory.

Reduced Inflammation

Inflammation can cause a whole range of problems. These include autoimmune disorders, IBS, depression, and even cancer. Therefore, finding a way to reduce inflammation is always a good thing.

There is a study that suggests spending time outdoors might do just that. For this study, students were split into two groups. One group spent time in the forest, and the other spent time in the city. The group that was sent to the forest showed lower levels of inflammation than the other group. 

Another study showed similar results when elderly patients were sent on a weeklong trip into the forest and showed reduced inflammation upon their return. 

Faster Healing

If you’ve been injured or ill lately, you might consider spending time in nature to promote healing. The aforementioned reduced inflammation will almost certainly help.

On top of that, according to a 2005 study done by the University of Pittsburgh, spinal surgery patients reported less pain and stress, and even took fewer pain medications, when they were exposed to natural light during the recovery process. Likewise, an older study proved that a window view of trees had a positive effect of patient recovery. 

These studies focused on window views and not actual immersion in nature. However, we’re willing to bet that adding some fresh air and the smells of nature wouldn’t be a bad thing for the stress levels and moods of recovering individuals. 

2024 Survey Overview

To shed light on Mental Health Awareness Month – May 2024, RVshare conducted a survey through Talker Research asking about the benefits (if any) people experience while outdoors. The survey showed that those who are vacationing in the great outdoors are seeing benefits to their mental health through reduced stress (36%), experiencing mental recharging (33%), and a gained perspective of gratitude for the things they have (23%). The survey showed that not only are people benefiting from time outdoors but they are also hurting from the lack of it. Spending more time inside than preferred showed the following results: 38% say feelings of depression, 33% say anxiousness, 32% say loneliness.

How to Spend More Time Outside

By now you’re probably feeling pretty inspired to get outdoors. If you’re wondering, “What are some fun outdoor activities I can do on my RV camping trips?” then you’ve come to the right place. Check out the list below to learn about the best outdoor activities for campers:

  • Hiking — This is probably the most popular outdoor activity for RVers. We love hiking because people of all ages and skill levels can participate together. It’s also easy to do almost anywhere and doesn’t require special equipment, meaning less stuff to pack.
  • Mountain Biking — Mountain biking definitely does require special equipment. Still, it’s a super fun activity that allows you to cover longer distances in less time. 
  • Swimming — Looking for low-impact exercise or a way to stay comfortable in the summer? We highly recommend swimming any time you get the chance. Whether you use campground pools or natural bodies of water, you’re sure to enjoy burning calories while also cooling off in the water.
  • Bouldering — Are you interested in rock climbing? If you’ve never climbed before, we highly recommend starting with bouldering. This type of climbing doesn’t require a harness and is generally better for beginner climbers. 
  • Kayaking — If you spend a lot of time near water, kayaking could be a fun activity to get you outside and moving around. Worried about space? Inflatable kayaks are an option!

Of course, it’s always nice to have a nice place to return to after a day of being active and taking advantage of outdoors health benefits. Why not rent an RV to park nearby so that getting back to your comfortable haven is a cinch? 

For more resources on health benefits from the outdoors and RVing:

How the Outdoors Benefit Our Mental Health – 2024 Survey Results

Surprisingly Healthy Perks of RV Travel

All about Forest Bathing – and its benefits