How Little We Go Outside

Where are you right now?

This statistic floored me the first time I heard it: in developed countries, people spend more than 90% of their time indoors. More specifically, North American adults spend about 87% of their time in buildings, 6% in vehicles and only a teensy 7% outdoors.

That’s about 100 minutes outside per day, and when it’s summarized that way, that really doesn’t seem that unusual. I am sure that there are days in the winter where I’m lucky to get outside 10 minutes per day. But it’s still a bit depressing to think that we (or at least I) spend such a measly amount of time outside.

Even more depressing: after crunching the numbers in the late 1980s, scientist Dr. Wayne R. Ott called humans an “indoor species.”

And, for that reason, I made sure to write this article while sitting outside on our porch on a nice summer night.

Last fall, I challenged myself to get outside for at least a half hour every day during the fall. This didn’t include the time spent walking to/from my car or other small trips—it was dedicated nature time. There are some challenges like this, such as the 30×30 Challenge or 30 Days Wild (happening this month!).

But 30 is still a long way from breaking over 100 minutes per day and reversing the trend of moving increasingly indoors—not to mention trying to spend more time outside than in a vehicle.

I’m keeping better track of how much time I get out nowadays, and hopefully developing some good habits that last beyond the nice, summer weather.

What about you? How much time do you spend outside?

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9 thoughts on “How Little We Go Outside

  1. I live in the inner city of Wichita, Kansas. I noticed this phenomena even more after I retired five years ago. My husband and I will be outside on a warm, but breezy night. Where are all our neighbors? Everyone in the hood seems to have a huge front porch. People, you are missing out on life!

    1. I agree! I spend as much time on the porch as I can in the summer–even as I write this, I’m on the porch. In a city it’s even better in some ways because it can be such a good way to get to know your neighbors and community.

  2. More and more, I crave time outdoors. Even though yoga class is my favorite form of exercise, there is nothing like being outside. I try to get out once a day to walk, or write on my deck. I am a farmer-wanna-be. I really don’t want the maintenance of a farm. I think I just want to have big reasons to be outside more.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Do you garden? It’s like farming in miniature (and without all the machinery) and is a great way to be outside and feel productive. Meanwhile, I should probably do more yoga! 🙂

    1. Hi Hanna! That’s wonderful! Do you have any posts or advice about how you carve out so much time every day to play outside, or how you manage icky weather? I feel like those two things are probably the hardest for me, although I am getting better!

    2. Hanna, your setting sounds idyllic. Yesterday, smack dab in the middle of the inner city, in Wichita, Kansas I spent ten hours in my backyard. Between bird feeding, planting, composting…the list never ends, I persist.
      At the end of my evenings, it’s usually time to set back and relax. A cold beer by the chimenea, accompanied by some “groovy” music, lets me wind down the day. The only downfall is I am blocks from major highways and bi-ways. After thirty-four years I will never, ever, get used to persistent and magnified vehicle noise. One day I will move. The birds and city wildlife will miss their wholly organic sanctuary!!

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