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Love is in the air - so step outside this Valentine's day

Feb 13, 2024

There is something magical about fresh air that makes everything seem better. No matter what life throws at you, a brisk walk, a paddle in the sea or even a sitdown on a park bench can make life seem a little easier. The fresh air clears our head and lifts our spirit. Unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough of this super drug that’s available free literally on our doorsteps.

Living on stale air

As we approach the end of winter, moods tend to be low and illness and lethargy high. At this time of year, we often choose to avoid outdoors and instead move from one artificial environment to the next. We have spent these winter months breathing recycled air-conditioned or heated air. It’s no wonder we may be feeling down. Our bodies are well overdue the opportunity to freshen up and clear out the stale air. Rather than complaining about the weather and dark evenings, we would be a lot better off just getting out and embracing it.

Every breathe you take

There is growing research that time spent outdoors improves energy, mood and mental. Lower fatigue, tension and depression have all been shown to tie in with outdoor activity. Improvements in concentration and better sleep are also linked to fresh air exposure. Consistently research papers are reporting higher vitality, energy, enthusiasm and self-esteem in those who exercise outdoors than when they perform the equivalent exercise indoors.

Be your own judge

I don’t need any science to prove how good being outdoors is for my body. I miss it when I don’t get outside and love the feeling of spending time in the fresh air. Sunny days in an office stuck to the desk drove me to leave my ‘sensible’ job and set up I dreamt of a job where I could be in the driving seat and choose to be outdoors when I wanted. It was not a particular love for exercise, but more a love for the freedom of the great outdoors. I don’t deny there is the odd wet day when a desk job might seem like an easier option, but overall I have never looked back from making the move outdoors.

Fitting it in your day

There are plenty options out there to clear the lethargy from our body and refill the lungs with fresh, invigorating and energy filled air. You don’t need sports clothing, running shoes or any equipment. You just need to step outside the door. This could be as simple as walking somewhere rather than taking the car, walking and talking while on the phone or choosing to park the car a little further from your destination. Start initially by counting the minutes you do spend outside each day.

Spark your creativity

My best ideas for work come when outside even when I’m not thinking about work. Studies in Japan has shown that fresh air sparks creativity. If you are feeling overwhelmed in work or stuck for ideas, wrap up and walk the block and let the creative juices flow. Come back into the office with a weight lifted from your shoulders and possibly a new way of thinking. If this works for adults, no doubt our children could help their studies too by breaking up their studies with fresh air breaks.

Forget The Gym

I’m allergic to gyms. It’s not the equipment, the mirrors or the loud music. I have been spoilt.  I have exercised outdoors for so long now that exercising indoors feels claustrophobic. If you too are a little gym shy, remember there is a whole gym on your doorstep if we would only look outside the window. The hardest bit, like any exercise regime, is getting started. Once you run outdoors, a treadmill is never quite the same again. From park benches to trails, steps to lamp posts, you can create a ‘green gym’ workout.

Use your time well

If you struggle to fit time for ‘scheduled’ exercise into your day, build it in your commute, your lunchbreak or your chores. Increase your minutes outdoors rather than pressure yourself to do exercise. Don’t sit in a car waiting for kids to finish training. Even a few minutes of fresh air will clear some cobwebs and freshen your mind. As kids we all spent hours outdoors, returning home with that healthy tiredness that helped us crave our dinner and sleep like a log. It was never called exercise, but our days were filled with fun, games and fresh air.  

Step away from the screens

Replacing fresh air with electronic screens has kept many of us from a good night’s sleep. From improved sleep to better concentration the list of benefits of fresh air is long. The cheapest and quickest way to lift our mood is to step outside. Treat yourself to some fresh air therapy and fun this winter and you will feel better when you come back indoors.

Fresh air therapy

Fall in love with the power of the outdoors this Valentine’s day. You don’t even need a date. Lift your head out of your phone and your bum off your chair. Step outside your door, clear your head and refill it with fresh air, energy and life.

This article by Mary Jennings was first published in February 2017 in The Irish Times. 

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