Brain Post: How Much Time Does the Average American Spend Outdoors?

SnowBrains | | BrainsBrains
The great indoors...
The great indoors…

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors.  87% of their life is inside buildings, then another 6% of their life in automobiles.  That’s only 7% of your entire life outdoors.  That’s only one half of one day per week outdoors.  Ouch.

We've all been here. Over insided.
We’ve all been here. Over insided.

Ouch, but it’s the truth, so let’s make some sense of it.  

In a study, the EPA found that:

“…concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.”

EPA Indoor Air study

Get out here and live a bit better.
Get out there and live a bit better.  photo:  Hank de Vre

People often think that we get colds and flu more often in the winter because it’s cold out.  False.  We get colds and flu more often in the winter because we are inside more often and exposed to higher concentrations of airborne pollutants, including cold and flu viruses.

Being outside is also highly linked to better moods and better outlooks on life.  Unfortunately, Americans are so bad at being outside that it’s recommended that we try to spend just five minutes outside each day.  Just five minutes will do you a world of good.

Squaw skiers getting their 5 minutes in.
Squaw skiers getting their 5 minutes in.  photo:  Hank de Vre

A study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology states:

In a meta-analysis of ten studies, they found that getting outside—and moving—for as little as five minutes at a time improved both mood and self-esteem.”

– Robin Mejia, author of the study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology

So, now it’s time to look at yourself.  How much time did you spend outside today?  If it wasn’t enough, make sure to take the time to consciously spend at least five minutes outside today.

yep
yep

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126 thoughts on “Brain Post: How Much Time Does the Average American Spend Outdoors?

  1. I am tempted to actually measure the amount of time I spend outdoors. Indoors get an easy 6-8 hours advantage because of sleep. I would be happy if I found a 40% balance of my waking hours outdoors.

  2. I would like someone to fact-check whether people really spend more time indoors during the winter. If I look at my own history of the past few years, I doubt there’s much difference. Granted I live in California. When I lived in Maryland, I might stay indoors to stay warm. And in summer I might stay indoors to stay cool. But most of my schedule (indoors on workdays, for example) doesn’t really change depending on the season.

  3. Why having a garden or a balcony if you are never there. I hate all this television watching, combustion engine mania, all those indoor people trying to polute as much as they can even when they are outdoors. You are f…..g idiots.

  4. Governments and corporations have the power to change how society is run or is funded. We need to stop driving vehicles and have power plants and mining companies and other toxic companies shutdown/banned. Not just reduced like they did with fancy United Nations meeting which accomplished nothing. Nature and wildlife is being destroyed everyday due to us humans. Soon in distant future nature would be something of the distant past. Only thing looking forward would be discovering other inhabitable planets for the rich people to escape to.

    1. You seem to lack intelligence because if they shut down all the power plants where do you suppose they are going to get electricity from, the electricity from cleaner solutions is still too low for independant use and I spend all my time indoors and I get sick only once a year and I have never gotten the Flu ever in my life

  5. The design of our buildings should be reconsidered. Buildings show have the ability to be transformed to outdoorsy, patio-like environments when the weather allows it. I find it very frustrating that I should work most if my day and all built environments are extremely isolated with tiny glassed openings for light called windows.

      1. I just checked out that link, and the data was based on a survey in the early-mid 90s — quite some time ago, and before the widespread use of the internet and cell phones. I feel like it’s even less now, but would like to see data.

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