While we’re still allowed to exercise outside during lockdown, fears of both coronavirus and the cold have forced us to hole up in our homes for the winter. However, our new habits may be affecting our bodies more than we think.
Staying inside all the time can negatively impact your health
Aside from the quick grocery run or literal run, many of us don’t see the sun for days at a time. But it turns out that this lack of fresh air, sunlight and socialising may be negatively impacting our health in many different ways.
1. You might get a little moody
While staying curled up on the couch seems like a cosy idea during the winter, not getting enough time outside can result in mood swings and instances of depression. This is because without the outdoors, you tend to experience the same things every day, which can leave you feeling a little bit stagnant.
A study once published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that experiencing nature boosted our vitality by up to 40% while staying inside had the opposite effect. In combination with the many social, economic and health stressors of coronavirus, it’s no wonder we aren’t feeling so happy.
2. You might be spending more time on your devices
Staying inside all day might prompt you to resort to devices and screens for stimulation. However, this practice can result in dangerous habits that can often make mental health issues worse.
Back in 2018 the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reviewed almost 300 studies which showed that excessive screen time can exacerbate anxiety and depression and can even result in screen addiction. This addiction or impulsive device use could even take time away from activities that would aid mental health problems such as exercise or social interactions.
3. You may not be getting a good night’s sleep
A combination of increased stress and screen time can also affect the quality of your sleep. So if you find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, only to later toss and turn at night, you may need to get outside.
A lack of natural light could also be affecting your sleeping patterns as the body often relies on sunlight, or lack thereof, to know when it’s time to hit the hay. Living in homes that have a less light exposure could then cause your mood and motivation to take a dive all because you aren’t sleeping well.
4. Your vitamin D levels may fall
Getting your daily dose of sunlight enables your body to produce vitamin D, the vitamin that supports immune system function as well as the regulation of calcium. While it’s possible to consume vitamin D through foods, usually just 10-30 minutes of sunlight can give you your daily intake.
But, over time, a lack of sunlight or dietary vitamin D consumption can lead to a deficiency, which can result in chronic health problems such as diabetes, low blood sugar and has even been tied to severe symptoms of coronavirus.
5. Your immune system may be weakened
It’s not just a lack of vitamin D that can hurt your immune system but feelings of loneliness and depression can also hinder your ability to fight off infection.
A study back in 2015 shows that researchers have found a link between loneliness and the body’s inflammatory response. Another study in 2020 also found that these feelings of interpersonal stress could even increase the risk of contracting respiratory viruses.
Getting outside to connect with someone in your bubble may be able to reduce these feelings of loneliness and in turn, give your immune system a much-needed boost.
6. Your weight and fitness levels may suffer
One of the more obvious consequences of not going outside is falling behind on your exercise routine.
While spending more time inside doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stop exercising or gain weight, it does make it easier. After all, snacks are always just metres away. Plus, staying inside all the time means we often lose out of those calories expended walking around. This may mean that some people could experience weight gain during lockdown or even loss of muscle and range of motion.
Getting outside and going for a walk or run could help people to maintain their fitness levels and feel a little healthier. However, how much exercise you might need to cancel out a whole day of sitting down is up for debate.
How can you prevent these negative impacts?
Lockdown means we can’t be outside all day every day, but getting an hour of outdoor time a day could do wonders for our health. Even in the rain and cold, a little time outdoors can help us feel less stressed and provide boost our immune system.
Just remember to make sure you wear your face mask, and in the case of meeting up with a friend, maintain social distancing.
Otherwise, if you really can’t get outside, try to spend your time indoors responsibly by getting enough exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and restricting your screen time. Instead, consider calling a friend, reading a book or even picking up a new hobby.