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What Are The Health Benefits Of Fresh Air?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - With temps soaring into the 30s Tuesday, many Minnesotans couldn't wait to get outside. They soaked up some sun while also taking in deep breaths.

We wanted to know: What are the health benefits of fresh air? And why do we feel called to it?

It's estimated that we breathe about 20,000 times per day. But those breaths we take outside seem to give us a boost when we need energy, or even calm us down when we're tense.

The fresh air outside has the same amount of oxygen as the air indoors. So what are its health benefits?

"What we find is that when we're outside, when we're interacting, when we're taking deep breaths outside, playing, we're breathing a lot more. We're taking bigger breaths," said Dr. Krishnan Subrahmanian, a pediatrician with Hennepin Healthcare.

Those deeper breaths help more oxygen flow into our blood and around our body, improving overall function.

"I sit all day so this is like the best way for me to get outside and expand my lungs that you don't often do," said Liza Goncharova as she went for a walk with her dog in Minnehaha Park.

Minnehaha Falls Park in winter
(credit: CBS)

Are we benefiting from the air being cleaner outside?

"When we're all close together, when there's germs, when there's particulates in the air inside in many places ... we're running heaters, you're recirculating air," Dr. Subrahmanian said. "And so if there's any particle in the air, it will be recirculated."

That's why breathing outside, especially for people with asthma, can be a healthy break from the confines of an office or crowded indoor space.

Not all fresh air is created equally. Pollutants from vehicles and businesses blends in with what people breath in an urban environment. The air can be much cleaner in a wooded area like a park, thanks to trees. Studies have shown that vegetation in urban parks can clean the air of pollutants.

But no matter the setting, breathing outdoors also tends to relax people.

"That does a lot for our heart rate, for our stress response," Dr. Subrahmanian said.

Some even focus better with fresh air as the deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, improving cognitive abilities.

"I really like to do my homework outside when I'm able," Annika Peterson said.

"I circulate, think things through and, you know, make plans and come to new conclusions," said one woman about how walking, breathing outside clears her mind.

Seeking fresh air also exposes you to the sun. The increase in vitamin D can then elevate your mood.

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