Get Your Family Outside…for your health!

It seems simple enough, but honestly families just don’t spend much time outdoors any longer. It’s true that the weather may be miserable where you are right now, but it’s not that way all year round. It may even be different tomorrow.

But why is it so important? Why do we push GYFO (get your family outside)? And why do we live it?

We’re not “tree-hugging.” We’re not entirely against television and electronics. We are, however, very active and spend most of our time outside, whether at home, a park, or a campground. If our boys had their way, we’d virtually live outside.

But those are just personal reasons we push GYFO. There are other very real health-related reasons as well. It has been proven that kids that are raised on farms or some other agricultural area have no or far fewer allergies than those brought up in cities or spend most of their time in the home, day-care, or some other building. It’s not because they’re genetically wired that way; it’s because their immune system was strengthened by early exposure to spores, dust, dirt, pollen, and the like.

This isn’t saying it’s too late if your kids are older, nor is it too late for you! Our immune system is constantly changing. Sometimes it weakens, other times it gets stronger.

Any exposure to the outdoors will help you feel better and generally stay healthier, not just because of those natural germs but also because the sun provides natural energy! And if you have a difficult time getting out of bed or waking up in the morning, open your window and let the sun shine in. Better yet, grab your cup of coffee, tea, or OJ and drink it outside. It’s not the harsh rays burning your retina that’s waking you up; the sunlight will actually have a chemical effect on your brain, naturally waking and energizing you to start your day.

Furthermore, there’s a chance that the air outside is less polluted than the air inside your home.

It should also go without saying that you are just more active when you’re outside, no matter what you’re doing. Sweeping that porch, weeding that garden, picking up after your dog (we know, not a great example, but you’re still moving!), pushing your kid on the swing, anything! Being outdoors gives your body healthful nutrients like Vitamin D (no more than 30 minutes without sunscreen though), which also provides energy (Vitamin D deficiency is a known cause of diseases and lack of energy), and it’s much better for your vision than watching the boob tube or looking at the computer monitor.

When you’re indoors, you’re either doing housework (not fun, but not necessarily a bad thing either) or you’re stationary. You’re more likely to get active if you’re outside. That laundry can wait until the kids are asleep. We’ve perfected the wash-dry-throw-on-the-bed-and-fold-later routine. We figure it takes little time to sort laundry and either put it in the washer or transfer it to the dryer (the boys have fun helping me too); the tedious part of folding can definitely wait–family comes first, and daylight is only available for a certain number of hours.

By the way, your kids will do what you do. You remember the first time your child said that four-letter word and you gasped in horror (I know I did!). He either picked it up from TV, another adult, or you. He’s only saying what you said or he heard; he doesn’t necessarily know it’s cursing. So if you get outside and get active, not only will you get more energy, lose weight, or have fun, but so will your children.

When we go to the playground, our kids always asks why the other mommies/daddies aren’t going down the slide with their kids. And if only we had a dime for every time we’re playing follow-the-leader on the playground cat walk and some kid stops us to say, “I wish my Mom would come up here, like you,” and then join in our game.

They want and need you to be involved. But if you’re just sitting on that bench, typing or talking away on your cell phone or toying around with that iPad, then your child will begin to lose interest in physical activity too. However, if you put down the electronics and get active, your child will always do the same. He or she will want to watch Sponge Bob and play video games far less often, if at all. There really is more to do and see outside, and before you know it you may even stop hearing about the TV and computer, Play Station, and so forth. Our boys beg to go outside!

Finally, there’s really such a thing as Nature Deficit Disorder. Although not (yet) recognized by the medical community, it’s a hypothesis that humans–especially children–are spending more time indoors and less time outside and in nature, resulting in behavioral and health issues. The blame lies not only in widely-available electronics; parents also have a fear of germs, dirt, bugs, and many other all-natural elements. Whether or not this hypothesis is correct, the fact it’s now given a label is quite disturbing.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of why you should GYFO. Next week we’ll get into some other reasons why you and your family should spend more time outside.

Stay healthy,

Family Bandage


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