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You’ve heard me say it a million times — I go outside for 20 consecutive minutes every single day, and I want you to join me. But I realized recently that I’ve never done a series deep-diving into the origin story of what I’m doing here at Humans Outside. How did I get to this point? And why did I pick 20 minutes?
So I’m doing a brief series in these Outdoor Diaries sharing directly with you my why and how we got to this point. This week — why 20 minutes?
Last week I told you about how I ended up in Alaska, sitting at my patio table making myself go outside every day, and why I decided to do what was original a year long daily outside time challenge. If you want to hear that, it’s a less than 10 minute episode and you can check out all the background.
But why did I decide on 20 minutes a day?
At the end of my 99 days of summer I realized that if I was going to go outside every day for a year, I needed some guardrails around my challenge or I would find shortcuts that would hurt me in the long run. So, because I’m me, I made some rules. And the first was defining what going outside meant in terms of time.
Over those 99 days there had been one very bad weather day that I had gone outside and drank coffee in the rain for five minutes, called it good, and went back in the house. I knew that if I was looking for a short cut in the rain the summer, I’d definitely go shortcut hunting in -10 degrees in the winter. I knew that I needed to set a benchmark for my daily time just so that I would make this challenge worth it.
So I went hunting for what could or should be enough time outside each day to make a difference. Back in 2017 the best research on the subject showed that a good “dosage” of outdoor time started at five minutes with benefits tapering off after 45 minutes. Since I knew that if I made the challenge 45 minutes I would struggle to make it happen on my busiest days or any travel day in and out of Alaska, which were plentiful at the time. Five minutes had a “why bother?” factor to it, especially when you considered that it takes at least five minutes to even get ready to head out in the winter.
And so I settled on 20 — a nice mid-point that would guarantee me at least some good outside benefits, offer a bit of a make-it-happen challenge but still be doable with my schedule. After all, 20 minutes is easily wasted on Facebook in the evening. Surely I could come up with 20 minutes sometime during the day. And,. I realized, if I could do it, other people could, too.
Since starting on my HumansOutside365 journey multiple sciefntifc studies have been released showing that 20 minutes outside is a really excellent dosage of nature time. One 2019 study from the University of Michigan found 20 to 30 minutes is ideal. Another study from the University of Alabama narrowed it down further to 20 to 25 minutes. And a study out of the UK in 2020 found that two hours a week – or just under 20 minutes a day – had measurable benefits.
You know, it’s always nice when science backs up what you already know to be true.
And that’s how we got to 20 minutes. Because it made sense and because studies suggested it would be good.
This past week I’ve had some time off from my full time job, so I’ve been working hard getting Season 3 of the podcast ready. Did you know you get early access to cool stuff and a few exclusive episodes if you support me on Patreon? Well, you do. Check it out at Patreon.com/humanoutside that’s P A T R E O N .com/humanoutside.
For these few weeks I’m also highlighting some of the gear – aka our weekly outdoor hero — that we love for winter adventures, or that make our daily habit possible in all kinds of weather. Last week I talked about my favorite winter boot. This week it’s all about the warm socks. Now, I own a LOT of socks, so I thought I’d see which brand I have most of when it comes to winter wool options. As it turns out, there’s only one brand in my sock drawer: Darn Tough. My Darn Tough wool socks are awesome for skiing, snowshoeing, winter running, hiking and anything else cold weather brings. I absolutely love them. They are warm and comfortable and hold up really well. I also have Darn Tough in my kids’ socks drawers.
Final note before I close up this first Diary of 2021 — next week is the premier of Season 3 of the podcast, starting with an episode all about building great habits. I’ve got a season preview dropping for you Thursday — or already live for my Patreon subscribers. And of course you can see all of my outdoor adventures, which this week mostly revolved around gentle walks, hot tub time and taking my kids skiing, via Instagram or Facebook. I do hope you join the growing community of people sharing their outdoor time with all of us by tagging it with HumansOutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.