Impact of Time Spent Indoors vs. Outdoors

When the pandemic first started, there wasn’t much fuss about being cooped up inside, as we were led to believe it would only be for a short period of time. Now, a year later, staying indoors has become unbearable for many, and spending time outside is crucial for the betterment of both our physical and mental health.

While we’ll discuss the benefits throughout our study, some standouts include the facts that natural sunlight can help mitigate pain and the outdoors boosts the immune system, enhances creativity, and restores focus.

It’s no wonder that people are desperate to be able to live freely outside again, but we’re not in the clear yet in regards to COVID-19, and precautions still need to be taken. We surveyed 1,015 Americans about their experiences both indoors and outdoors as of late, including the habits they’ve developed due to their increased time spent inside. Which outdoor activities help them feel better, and which are they most excited for? Read on to find out the many consequences of lockdown, one year down the line.

Cooped Up

For one reason or another, more than three-quarters of respondents said they’ve been spending more time indoors since the start of the pandemic. Regarding changes in their mental health, happiness, and general well-being, almost half said all three of the aspects have been negatively affected by staying inside more often.

Percentages of Americans impacted by staying indoors

Respondents had been both physically and mentally affected by the change – over half said they are sitting a lot more than they used to, and over 40% admitted that they were moving and exercising less in general. A third said they had noticed a decrease in their happiness, and more had cited an increase in anxiety, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. Only 16.9% of people said they were exercising more, and 12.9% were actually happier to be indoors more often than not.

On a generational level, 23.5% of millennials experienced additional aches from sitting more and moving less, compared to 29.2% of Gen Xers, and 33.8% of baby boomers. When comparing genders, 37.5% of women experienced fatigue after staying indoors more, compared to 19.6% of men.

To make the indoor experience more bearable, eating well, exercising (even if it’s a short workout), keeping in touch with loved ones, and practicing and/or taking up new hobbies are some great activities that can boost both your physical and mental health.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Pre-pandemic, respondents were spending an average of 14 hours outside per week, but that number got reduced to nine hours since COVID-19 reached our borders. This summer, a vast majority of people would like to spend more time outside than they did last summer, and over half of respondents believed they haven’t currently been soaking up nearly enough sun.

Average weekly hours Americans spent outdoors

That being said, people were staying inside for good reason – over half did it out of concern for their own health, while nearly half were isolating themselves for the sake of their family’s well-being. Forty-three percent were just diligently following public health guidelines and those issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Likely because they’ve spent so much time inside recently, almost 75% of respondents said they valued being outside more than ever before. Being in the open air has countless health benefits – among them are reduced feelings of stress or anger, improved feelings of relaxation and calmness, a heightened sense of confidence and self-esteem, and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Nearly a fifth said their opinion on being outside hadn’t changed, and 6.4% actually valued it less since the pandemic started.

The Benefits

Hiking was a very effective activity to improve respondents’ overall well-being, as it was most likely to improve respondents’ mood, increase their overall happiness, make them feel healthier, lower their stress levels, and promote better sleep. Spending time in their backyard was also high up on the list of relaxation strategies.

Benefits of spending time outdoors by activity

To improve their focus, over half of respondents enjoyed perusing farmer’s markets. Aside from buying fresh produce, strolling through one of these markets actually has mental health benefits as well. For example, they offer the chance to socialize with other people at the market and foster a sense of belonging. The sensory stimulation of the various scents, textures, tastes, and chatter around you can also be a refreshing experience for those looking to take a necessary break from their stressful life.

Generally, respondents felt better after performing physical exercise, including walking, running, hiking, biking, fishing, and other stimulating activities. As we know, all of these activities can increase happiness, benefit both our physical and mental states, and lessen the risk of chronic diseases, among other advantages.

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Although many outdoor activities can be done in isolation, people naturally want to start congregating again, and just over 40% of respondents planned on getting vaccinated before partaking in outdoor activities in a group setting. Baby boomers were most likely to follow through with this plan, whereas Gen Xers were the least.

Percentages of plans for activities in summer 2021

Respondent’s didn’t even have major outdoor activities in the works – most of them just wanted to be able to walk freely again, head to their local farmer’s market, sit outside at a nice restaurant, or get back to exercising. Still, 10.5% of respondents reported continuing to participate in all the activities we inquired about. Seeing as a quarter of Americans said they have no interest in getting the vaccine, it’s no surprise that many have continued to live their life without following public health guidelines. Only time will tell if these individuals have a change of heart.

When There’s a Will, There’s a Way

It’s quite clear why people are getting increasingly antsy about experiencing the freedom of the open air again. Many people have noticed a dip in their mental health, happiness, and general well-being from being cooped up for so long. Seeing as many people are staying inside to protect themselves and the people around them, they’ve come to value the outdoors much more, as fresh air has become both a risk and a luxury.

While people are excited to get out there again and resume their favorite outdoor activities, at-home workouts have become the norm for many and will likely still be a popular exercise avenue well after gyms become accessible again. The pros over at FitRated.com have all the tools you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle within the safety of your home. Whether you’re looking to up your cardio or pump some iron, their expert equipment analyses can help ensure that you make the right choice for all your fitness needs. Head over now to see how you can live a healthy and active lifestyle within your own home and on your own terms.

Methodology and Limitations

This study uses data from a survey of 1,015 respondents located in the U.S. Survey respondents were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 50.8% of respondents identified as men, while 49.2% identified as women. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 76 with an average age of 39.1. 6.1% of respondents were Gen Zers, 55.9% were millennials, 27.5% identified as Gen Xers, and 10.5% reported as baby boomers. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.

Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.

Fair Use Statement

Maybe you’re reading this in your living room, or perhaps you’re sitting on your porch. Regardless of your location, feel free to share our findings with anyone you’d like for noncommercial use only. We just kindly ask that you provide a link back to this page so contributors can earn credit for their work!