Health

A Quarter of Americans Almost Never Go Outside

Indoor living is turning out to be way too much of a 'good' thing, as a new study makes startlingly clear

Some 25 percent of us rarely go out of doors, according to a new study. It’s hardly surprising, with almost everything we want or need these days just a touch or click away, thanks to powerful technology, such as smartphones and other mobile devices. But — seriously? A quarter of us?

The Indoor Generation Report, commissioned by the Velux Group, a window manufacturing company, surveyed 16,000 people from 14 countries in Europe and North America about their knowledge and perceptions of indoor/outdoor air quality and the amount of time they spend inside.

The Denmark-based company has also created a compelling YouTube video by the same title, with dire warnings about how the air in our homes can be up to five times more toxic than the air outside.

Alarmingly, the video clip, with more than 2 million views, also reveals that kids’ rooms can have the highest level of toxicants in the home.

“We closed ourselves in to a point where nothing could get out,” says the narrator, a little girl with sad eyes and a worried demeanor.

“We are increasingly turning into a generation of indoor people where the only time we get daylight and fresh air midweek is on the commute to work or school,” Peter Foldbjerg, head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux, said in a May 15 statement on the company’s website.

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And spending too much time indoors can wreak havoc on our physical and emotional well-being.

With an expertise in elder care, Barbara McVicker, a popular speaker and the author of “Stuck in the Middle: Shared Stories and Tips on Caring for Mom and Dad,” has seen firsthand how a lack of sunlight exposure can sow serious health concerns.

Vitamin D deficiency can manifest itself in a variety of ways, McVicker told LifeZette, including depression, anxiety, muscle pain, hair loss, increased sweating, and a weaker immune system.

Being inside all day can lead to a lack of exercise, which can result in obesity, difficulty sleeping, and loss of bone strength, she also noted. “Isolation and a lack of socializing are bad for one’s health,” said McVicker.

What’s more: “Emotional stress leads to sleep deprivation and the shortening of telomeres, or cell death,” said McVicker.

And let’s not forget that long periods of sitting can stress out our spines.

Related: The Seven Secrets of Raising Healthy Boys

Conversely, spending time in nature can yield big health benefits. It can lower our stress levels and bolster the immune system, while also sharpening our ability to focus, among a myriad of other therapeutic benefits.

Being inside all day can lead to a lack of exercise, which can result in obesity, difficulty sleeping, and loss of bone strength.

“The outdoors support emotional stability, clarity of thought, improved health, spirituality, and less distraction,” noted McVicker, who is also the creator and star of the PBS special “Stuck in the Middle: Caring for Mom and Dad.”

In the meantime, here are some small steps to help improve the quality of the air you breathe — compliments of the Velux Group:

  • Open windows at least three to four times a day to allow in fresh air
  • Keep bathroom doors closed and turn on the extractor fan; or open a window when showering
  • Turn the hood fan on when cooking and open your windows
  • Don’t burn candles
  • Dry clothes outside
  • Clean regularly

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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