Creating Balance for the Indoor Generation

Written by Posted On Thursday, 04 October 2018 11:17
Creating Balance for the Indoor Generation Shutterstock

We hear a lot talk about Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials — but have you ever heard of the Indoor Generation? As it turns out, most of us belong to this category. No matter when you were born, the advent of technology and the popularity of indoor attractions has created a time in history in which we spend way more time indoors than we do outdoors. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of us now spend about 90% of our daily lives inside.

Why does it matter that we’re spending less time under the sun and more time in front of a TV or computer screen? The answer is this: There are negative health implications associated with a life spent mostly indoors. Read on to find out just how we came to be such indoor creatures and how you can create a healthy, balanced life as part of the indoor generation.

Reasons for the Shift Toward Indoor Living

There are a few reasons for the move from outdoor living to an indoor existence, and nowhere is this more dramatically reflected than in the employment landscape. Between 1800 and 2000, the number of people who work outdoors went from about 90% to less than 20%. Whereas in the past, most people worked on farms or spent significant time hauling goods by hand, now people primarily work behind desks and transmit information with the click of a mouse.

Transportation has also changed. Biking and walking to work and school happen far less often, as we’re now accustomed to being shuttled from place to place by car, train, or other modes of transit. Even entertainment has shifted: Outdoor games like tag or hide-and-go-seek have been replaced by video games. Think about it: Going to see a play ourdoors is far less common than seeking a night out at a movie theater. All in all, about 25% of Americans rarely go outside at all.  

Health Implications of Being Indoors All Day

Perhaps at this point, you’re wondering, is it really that bad to stay indoors all day? After all, avoiding the sun could decrease your chances of skin cancer and you’ll come into less contact with harmful vehicle emissions. You might think going from home to work to the gym is no problem at all. However, indoor air quality has proven health implications all its own and has been shown to be more of a health concern than outdoor air pollution. In addition, a lack of sunlight could adversely affect your mood, hormones, and other biological processes.

Here are just a few of the health implications for the 25% of Americans who say they rarely spend time outdoors:

  • Indoor air quality can be five times as polluted as outdoor air, and your air conditioning system is only circulating that same polluted air around your home. Between Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), home cleaning products, and dirty air filters, you never know when you’re breathing in harmful contaminants.
  • The EPA warns that being around contaminated indoor air could result in health problems both short-term, like headaches and irritated eyes, and long-term, like cancer.
  • About 15% of the world’s population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight and can contribute to depression.

Testing and Improving Indoor Air Quality

There’s not a ton of research out there on indoor air quality, but some groups are stepping in to fill in the gaps. The nation’s biggest-ever study, HOMEChem, started this summer at the University of Texas and aims to close the wide gaps in knowledge on how different things affect our indoor air quality. In addition, Studies like the PINCHE Project have evaluated the most common contaminants in residential buildings and created recommendations for how to create healthier indoor environments.

What we do know is that even if you must be inside a lot, you can mitigate some of the consequences. A first and critical step is to treat the HVAC system and carpet cleaning in your home and office as if your health depends on it – because it does. If you’re ready to start improving the air quality in the places you spend the most time, here are a few good places to start:

  • Get a comprehensive evaluation of your home HVAC system. Have a professional recommend improvements to your filters and other system components.
  • Manage humidity levels within your home; 30-50% levels of humidity are ideal.
  • Clean your carpets regularly and replace them with hardwoods whenever possible. Carpets are a common source of dust mites and they may also cause you to unknowingly breathe in dangerous chemicals.
  • Use natural fabrics in your home, or fabrics with dye that has a low VOC rating.
  • Open your windows whenever possible to allow the flow of natural light and air throughout your home.
  • Consider investing in a monitoring system that alerts you when the indoor air quality in your home or office is reaching a level that needs your attention.
  • Switch to natural, eco-friendly cleaning products.

Being a part of the Indoor Generation doesn’t mean you’re doomed to breathe in polluted air. Even if you work indoors or live in a climate that keeps you housebound during winter months, you can still be proactive in your efforts to monitor and improve your indoor air quality.

Creating a Good Balance as a Member of the Indoor Generation

On top of maximizing the clean air in your home to reduce the risks of air pollution, you may want to create a plan for getting into the great outdoors as much as your schedule allows. The Indoor Generation can benefit from a concerted effort to spend time under the sun and away from the uncirculated air of the indoors.

If you catch yourself inside for a few days in a row, consider:

  • Dining al fresco the next time you go out to eat.
  • Dedicating at least 20 minutes a day to walking outdoors whenever weather permits.
  • Choosing one day a week to unplug and spend time doing outside activities instead of watching movies at home.
  • Looking up outdoor activities (hikes, beach walks) in your area that might be fun to explore.
  • Starting an outdoor hobby, like gardening.

The time is now to think about protecting yourself by regulating the air you breathe. There are a number of things you can do to offset the amount of time you spend indoors, with the most important being to evaluate your HVAC system, take steps to improve the air quality within your home and office, and look for ways to be outside more often.  From there, you can breathe easy and feel less guilty about spending so much time between four walls.

When was the last time you thought about the indoor air quality in your home and workspace?

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Kevin Burns

Kevin Burns is the President of Bob Jenson Air Conditioning in San Diego with over 29 years of experience in the HVAC Field. He has worked in every aspect of the industry and has trained dozens of people. He has a passion for doing what’s right for each home and customer and sets this standard for his entire team.

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