These Outdoor Activities Will Help You Maximize Your Favorite Time of Day—Morning, Noon, and Night
The mental and physical health benefits of getting outdoors include everything from a stronger immune system and better lung health to an improved mood and a more agile brain. So whether you're an early bird, a night owl, or someone whose favorite time of day falls somewhere in the middle, fill your outside time with hobbies and activities that offer a broad range of benefits. Ultimately, it matters less what time of day you decide to explore the Great Outdoors—it's just important that you do.
In the Morning
Starting your day with a brisk walk—or even a slow stroll to get the paper—can have big benefits for your sleep-wake cycle; research published by the National Sleep Foundation shows that access to sunlight first thing in the morning can help keep your circadian rhythm on track, making it easier to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at night. If you're not a morning person, then getting outside offers an immediate oxygen boost that can help wake you up even before your morning coffee. And if you're used to the all-day focus and energy that results from an early workout, take it outside to stack up those health benefits on top of the ones that stem from waking up with the sun.
In the Afternoon
In areas with high amounts of commuter traffic, outdoor air quality is often best in the afternoon, when fewer cars are nearby, says Dr. Gary Adamkiewicz, associate professor of environmental health and exposure at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; outdoor air is also likely to be cleaner than indoor air, which is polluted by particles from cleaning supplies, household chemicals, candles, and cooking. Regular exposure to fresh air helps strengthen your lungs and heart, and improves your overall health. "If you have the flexibility to choose when you exercise, try for midday or later," says Dr. Adamkiewicz. The boost of vitamin D you'll get from the sun will also make you feel better—just don't forget the sunblock.
In the Evening
For many people with traditional schedules, getting outside in the evening—after work, when the kids are in bed—is the only feasible option. But the pre-dusk and twilight hours have their benefits, too: As the sun sets and the air cools in the summer, spending time outside is often more comfortable than it is during the day; winding down with the sun (instead of staring at a screen inside) can improve your sleep quality; and the exposure to nature can boost your mood, no matter the hour. It's a better time for yard work, since experts recommend watering when the sun isn't overhead, and you're apt to find neighbors and friends on a similar routine: Host a weekly fire pit, set up a movie projector for the baseball game, or plan an evening walk to decompress with your spouse.