JoJo said it first: Get out (leave) right now. Americans today spend less time in the Great Outdoors than ever before—even during the summer, most of us are only outside for an hour or two per day Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation. Pergams, O.R., Zaradic, P.A. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2008;105(7):2295-300. An overview analysis of the time people spend outdoors. Diffey, B.L. Dermatological Sciences, Institute of Cellular Medicine, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. The British Journal of Dermatology 2011;164(4):848-54.. But being one with nature isn’t just for granola-crunching hippies. Being outdoors can help lower stress levels, boost mood, and even improve body image in ladies The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku: taking in the forest atmosphere or forest-bathing: evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., et al. Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine 2010;15(1):18-26..
So now’s the time to bust out of the cubicle, the car, and the living room and experience the benefits of Mother Nature. From doing laundry to doing the deed, we’ve rounded up 21 traditionally indoor activities to bring outdoors.
1. Play board games outside instead of hosting an indoor game night.Photo: renielet
Those Monopoly instructions don’t include a rule that says we have to play inside (and who reads the instructions anyway?). Bring the boxes and a bunch of friends to a nice patch of grass and let the games begin. Or hit the beach with some snazzy contraptions that double as towels and giant board games. (Check out this Twister towel!)
2. Watch a movie outdoors instead of heading to the theater.Photo: slolee
Yes, movie theaters have popcorn and coming attractions, but they’ve also got viewers who glare at us when we shriek during a scary scene in Spiderman. Create a personal outdoor theater experience by grabbing some folding chairs and projecting a flick onto the garage door. Lots of cities (like NYC and LA) also feature outdoor movie series during the summer, so do some searching in your area.
3. Catch a concert or play outdoors instead of visiting an indoor theater or museum. Photo: fbonzon
Even the fahnciest theater-goers know summer’s the perfect time to take advantage of outdoor cultural experiences. Find some free performances in public parks and libraries or check out a local art exhibit.
4. Jam out to music outdoors instead of listening at home.Photo: Joshua Daniel O.
Dance like no one’s watching—even if there are a million people looking in a park or on the street. To beat stress, grab a pair of headphones and head for a walk around the block—just make sure not to smack fellow pedestrians with those spirit fingers.
Social and Romantic
5. Phone a friend outside instead of chatting indoors.Photo: mtsofan
The only problem with this one is we can’t talk while lounging in our underwear. Head for a bench or a grassy spot under a tree and dial a pal who can lift your spirits. Or just wear a headset for show and have a heart-to-heart with yourself—your call.
6. Host a rooftop or pool party instead of an indoor get-together.Photo: davidg37
There ain’t no party like an outdoor party. For those who aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere with a rooftop or swimming pool, find a buddy who does and start planning the fiesta. There’s brilliant sunshine, a cool breeze, and no worries about guests spilling beer all over the carpet.
7. Plan a date for two outdoors instead of hitting up the usual indoor spots.Photo: Ryan Smith Photography
8. Have sex outdoors instead of in the bedroom.Photo: adkorte
Do it like they do on the Discovery Channel and swap the bedroom for the backyard—or the beach, or the woods, or anywhere that doesn’t have four walls. Getting it on outdoors heightens the senses, plus it can feel scandalous, making the experience that much more exciting.
9. Use the Wi-Fi in a public park instead of working indoors.Photo: axbom
The cubicle and the home office aren’t the only places with Internet access. If laughing children, wagging dog tails, and the smell of freshly mown grass aren’t too much of a distraction, grab the laptop and sit on a park bench to get some work done in a new environment. Check out this list of all the places in the USA with free Wi-Fi!
10. Take a lunch break outside instead of eating in front of the computer.Photo: the queen of subtle
Give the eyes, the neck, and the wrists a break and step outside for a mid-day meal. There’s some evidence chowing down in front of the computer contributes to overeating, so head to an empty park bench for some more mindful munching.
11. Schedule a walking meeting instead of an in-office discussion.Photo: Springsun (Once Again)
As long as the meeting doesn’t involve a Powerpoint presentation, take a few turns around the block while talking out ideas. Everyone gets the benefits of exercise and fresh air; plus research suggests people think more creatively when they’re outside Embodied metaphors and creative "acts". Leung, A.K., Kim, S., Polman, E., et al. School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University. Psychological science 2012;23(5):502-9..
12. Walk or bike to work instead of driving or taking public transportation.Photo: K_Gradinger
Skip the crowded subway car or the mind-numbing gridlock and walk, bike, hop, or skip at least part of the daily commute. It’s a super-green form of exercise that can help reduce air pollution. Some U.S. cities now offer bike-share programs, but if there isn’t one near you, just invest in a solid pair of kicks and hit the pavement.
Food and Drink
13. Barbecue food instead of cooking dinner indoors.Photo: Gepat
For veg-lovers, meat-eaters, and everyone in between, there’s little to dislike about an outdoor summer barbecue. Throw some hamburgers and tofu dogs on the grill, break out the beer and guacamole, and chill out on the grass. The crowd may never want to return to a formal dining table again.
14. Visit an outdoor bar or restaurant instead of sitting indoors.Photo: Galveston.com
Opt for outdoor restaurant seating while it’s still warm out and there’s always free people-watching. Or ditch the local digs this weekend and get classy on a rooftop bar. Feeling tropical? There are always margaritas waiting at a waterfront or swim-up venue.
Household and Daily Schedule
15. Hang laundry on a clothesline instead of running the dryer.Photo: Peter Blanchard
It’s never a good idea to air dirty laundry—but clean laundry’s just fine. Hang-drying is a great step toward saving the environment: One source estimates electric clothes dryers make up almost six percent of residential energy use. We just can’t guarantee neighbors won’t laugh at those Superman boxers.
16. Shop at a farmers market instead of the supermarket.Photo: cleber
Skip the chilly dairy aisles and the siren call of those M&Ms and take a spin around a green market instead. It’s not only a chance to pick up some fresh produce (fruit smoothies, here we come!), but a 2010 study found organic food at farmers’ markets is cheaper than at most grocery stores. Find a farmers market in your neighborhood or road trip it to some of the best markets in the USA.
17. Shower outside instead of in the bathroom.Photo: my_southborough
Why stay locked up in a steamy bathroom when a makeshift waterfall awaits outside? Those handy with a wrench and screw (or a construction team) can design their own outdoor shower—the rest of us can just hose down.
18. Sleep outside instead of getting into bed.Photo: EnvironmentBlog
Swap a bland ceiling for a view of the stars—s’mores and spooky stories optional. For those who don’t have backyards to spend the night in, try napping in the middle of nature. Find a shady spot under a tree and just let go: You’ll wake up refreshed, covered in leaves, and ready for the rest of the day.
19. Pee outside instead of searching for a toilet.Photo: koke
We’re not advising anyone to squat in the middle of a busy street and let it flow. But on camping, hiking, or boating trips, it’s not always easy to find a pristine toilet—or any bathroom, for that matter. Instead of holding it in until you cry, find a private spot along the trail and heed the call of nature. Already floating down the river? Hop in the water and do your thing—it’s a truly liberating experience.
20. Practice yoga or meditation outdoors instead of attending an indoor class.Photo: GerraeLove
Put the tree back in tree pose and swap the yoga mat for a grassy hill. The only thing more peaceful than a yoga or meditation session is spending time in the beauty of a natural setting. Some yogis say practicing outdoors makes postures more intense and reminds students of their connection to nature.
21. Exercise outside instead of hitting the gym.Photo: lululemon athletica
Schmancy gym facilities still can’t beat the feeling of the wind in your hair and the ground beneath your feet. Plus, people who exercise outside tend to enjoy exercise more and work out more frequently than gym rats Brief walks in outdoor and laboratory environments: effects on affective responses, enjoyment, and intentions to walk for exercise. Focht, B.C. Section of Health and Exercise Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. Research quarterly for exercise and sport 2009;80(3):611-20. Restorative qualities of indoor and outdoor exercise settings as predictors of exercise frequency. Hug, S.M., Hartig, T. Hansmann, R., et al. Society, Environment and Culture Unit, Institute for Environmental Decisions, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland. Health & Place 2009;15(4):971-80.. Skip the treadmill and run on an outdoor track; swap the elliptical for a bike; or head for a public basketball court or soccer field. Not sure where to start? Try this creative 30-minute outdoor workout.