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Getting Outdoors

I’m out of here! I’m off to join the working world now, which is pretty exciting. But I do have to admit that I have my concerns. Obviously, I’m a little anxious about learning “how to adult” and all of that stuff–I’ll have to write another letter to ask you guys about taxes!–but there’s something else that’s been weighing on my mind lately. See, I’m really passionate about spending time outdoors. But I’m worried that, with a full-time job to focus on, I’m not going to end up spending as much time outside as I want to.

I’d like to find ways to ensure that being outside becomes a habit for me. I want to be outside on vacations and on weekends, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I can spend time outside on typical working days! I’m not sure how feasible that will be with my career. Experts, do you have any tips?

It’s wonderful to spend time outdoors–and healthy, too! You probably already know that the sort of exercise that many outdoor activities provide will help you be healthier and live longer (experts recommend that we get a least a half-hour of exercise each day). But did you know that being outside may have health benefits in and of itself? That’s what researchers have found. According to science, being outside could help you fight depression, lower your blood pressure, and even improve your memory. Part of the reason, no doubt, is the sun–which we have long known helps our body create vitamin D. Researchers believe that outdoor time is good for us in ways that go beyond the benefits we’d expect from exercise, and that, therefore, the “greening” of exercise (the trend that has seen more and more of us exercising outdoors, rather than in gyms or at home) is a beneficial health trend.

That’s all great news for someone who, like you, loves to spend time outside. But we realize that you’re asking something a little different than whether or not you should be outside–you’re asking if you can be outside as a working professional, and how you can best do that. So let’s talk about that!

Let’s start with the obvious: your free time is your own, and your recreational activities are the best places to steal a little time out in the sun. Day trips and vacations to outdoor attractions are a great way to keep up with your outdoor time. You know how to do this, of course: go camping, hiking, cycling, or fishing. Get out into nature! And don’t forget to get a little exercise, too. Just because the outdoors have benefits separate from your exercise efforts doesn’t mean that you can’t make things even healthier by breaking a sweat on your vacation. We’re not talking about an exercise you’d consider a chore, of course–we’re talking about exercise experiences that make vacations more fun, like surfing lessons in Waikiki, HI.

Or don’t: you shouldn’t feel like every trip outside needs to be about hiking or biking–there are lots of unique and memorable ways to get outside, like this aerial adventure park in Gaston, OR. You can be outside in a developed spot, such as a theme park or even a city. You can get sun on the deck of a cruise ship as easily as you can on a deserted natural beach. Nature is beautiful, but don’t turn down chances to get outside in less remote areas–especially in your day-to-day life.

Speaking of your day-to-day life, that’s the real tough part here. You can plan every vacation in a national park or a beautiful beach, but you still won’t be getting enough outdoor time unless you’re making smart use of your weekends, individual days off, and–above all–your time during the work week.

In your daily life, the key to getting outside is the same as the key to exercising regularly and eating right: you need to build habits. Research shows that we are even more controlled by our habits than we typically realize. What we think of as choices are, in many cases, automatic responses to things that we may not even realize we’re noticing. That’s why it’s so hard to get up at 5 AM to go running for the first time–and so surprisingly easy to do it for the hundredth time (you’ll have to trust us on that one).

So how can you create habits? One way to do so is to turn your outdoor time into a hobby with a bit of structure. Look for outdoor clubs to join, say the pros at a fishing club in Albany, OR–a good club will give you a place to recreate, a community with which to bond, and a sense of familiarity that will make it easy for you to get out of bed and over to the fishing pond (or the nature trail, or the gun range, or… you get the idea).

Swapping the nightclub for a fishing club is a great way to get outside on weekends. But what about weekdays? Your best bets are to create a routine of getting outside before work, after work, or on your lunch break. Running is a great hobby for folks looking to get outside for short periods during the work week: you’ll find that it gets easier to get up early or run after work as you make a habit of it. Or you could simply take a walk during your lunch break–perhaps to a picnic table or a favorite lunch spot. You can even grab short bursts of time outside by parking your car further from your office than you need to–while this might not satisfy your craving for outdoor “activities,” it will help you sneak in a boost of sunlight and fresh air, which will elevate your mood and benefit your health.

There’s one more thing to consider here, and it’s one of the most important things of all. When you’re at work, it’s reasonable to assume that you can’t hang out outside. But what about when you’re at home? You don’t actually have to head to the fishing club or take a vacation to grab some quick time outside after work, as long as your home has outdoor space. So if you care about your time outside, make outdoor space a priority as you go apartment-hunting or house-hunting. With time, you may be able to afford to shape your space in a way that encourages you to spend time outside. Studies show that we react to our environments and that our homes can shape our habits. So why not install a pool or a hot tub? Experts at a hot tub, spa, and swimming pool contractor in Hamilton Township, NJ say that a decision like that can vastly increase your desire to spend time outside. There are a host of other outdoor improvements you could invest in, too, including patios, outdoor furniture, fire pits, and even entire outdoor kitchens–it all depends on your budget and, of course, on your priorities.

Getting the outside time that our minds and bodies crave isn’t always easy. But if we develop the healthy habits we should, and if we create a support structure for ourselves by setting up our homes in the right way, then we can make it easy–even if we’re busy with work! Rather than fighting a daily battle with your schedule, we encourage you to make changes at the lifestyle level, ensuring that you end up outdoors for a while every day without having to try too hard.

“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” — John Muir


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