What the health?

Get outside to get well inside (credit: Elizabeth Haldane/Sports editor) Get outside to get well inside (credit: Elizabeth Haldane/Sports editor)

With the sun finally coming out of hiding, dresses and sleeveless tees are once again making their appearance on campus. No longer must we hide under North Face fleeces and layers of sweatpants; instead, Carnegie Mellon students are free to play Frisbee on the Cut and go for walks along Forbes Avenue. The temperatures are rising and students are being lured into the sunshine. But little do they know just how sunny of a decision they are really making.

It has been proven time and time again that exercise is good for one's health, and, fortunately, our campus is a relatively active one. What is not as commonly known, however, are the benefits of being active outdoors. The website preaches the many positive outcomes of getting sweaty under the sun. It also lists common outdoor activities that are not only enjoyable, but also very healthy, such as kayaking, skiing, jogging, beach volleyball, and tennis. But why bother making it a point to skip the gym and hit the sidewalk? The list of answers to this question seems to be endless.

First of all, the sun can be man's best friend. While it is obviously true that one can get too much of the sun, therefore reversing the benefits, by keeping your exposure to a moderate level and avoiding any burns, you can treat your body to a heavy dose of a commonly lacking nutrient, Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to help prevent cancer, bone disease and depression, and it lowers and controls a person's insulin levels, helping in weight control. The sun can also aid in treating seasonal affective disorder, in which a person's mood decreases with cold or dreary weather.

But the health benefits of outdoor fun do not end there. Simply breathing in outdoor air can be good for your body. Think about it: the average person spends over 90 percent of his or her time indoors. All of this time inside means breathing in an unhealthy amount of dust and recirculated air, along with being exposed to unnatural fluorescent light. Getting outside means being closer to nature, and closer to the sources of freshness on this Earth. Many have reported feeling better spiritually as a result of exercising outside. Even more have reported an increase in balance and flexibility. Running or walking on uneven pavement can strengthen the ligaments, tendons, and stabilizers we often do not use during regular activity. This can lead to a decrease in injury and/or strain. A study by the National Recreation and Parks Association shows that people with better access to outdoor parks and those who participate in outdoor recreation have fewer trips to the doctor.

Aside from the direct health benefits, with the nation having serious concerns for the fate of our planet and our piggy banks, outdoor activities may just be the solution to our biggest problems. Working out outdoors is as simple as walking out of the house. You can do this anywhere and virtually anytime, somewhat dependent on weather. Since there is no need to drive to a gym, you may be reducing your carbon footprint. And with no need for a gym membership, you can save a lot of cash. All of that green is looking pretty good right now. Pair those advantages with the numerous improvements you may feel inside your body, and it seems almost ridiculous to spend a whole day inside. So next time you realize that the most light you are getting is from a computer or TV screen, take that homework outside and enjoy some fresh air. Maybe take a break and go for a little bike ride or stroll down to Shadyside. Try it. Your body will thank you later.