Have you been feeling exhausted lately? Have you been suffering from headaches that come and go? Maybe you have high blood pressure or are anemic? Perhaps your immune system has been suppressed, and you can’t seem to shake that stuffy nose? There are many places to turn to for advice on how to get back to the healthiest version of yourself. But have you ever considered just… going outside?
I know what you’re thinking, that there is no way simply spending time outdoors can fix anything! But there are numerous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to going outside:
Benefits of Sunlight
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building strong bones. Luckily, our body can make its own with the help of a bit of sunlight.
There are two types of Ultraviolet rays the sun provides for us:
- UVA rays have lower energy and longer wavelengths, meaning they can penetrate through glass.
- UVB rays have a higher amount of energy and a shorter wavelength. They cannot penetrate glass, but they do help with Vitamin D Production.
Both indoor and outdoor sunlight exposure can cause the skin to release Nitric Oxide into the bloodstream. Nitric Oxide is a compound occurring in the body that causes blood vessels to dilate, which can stimulate the release of hormones such as insulin and human growth hormone (HGH). It can also relieve high blood pressure levels, decreasing bodily stress.
Sun exposure can also lead to increased iron and carbon monoxide production. Now I know what you are going to say: Isn’t carbon monoxide deadly to breathe in? It absolutely is, but when it is converted in small amounts in the cells, it prevents the production of inflammatory cytokine cells. This means your body can actually produce its own anti-inflammatory effect!
The sun can help heal your skin too. UVB light has been shown to help improve inflammatory autoimmune-related skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. The UVB rays help to slow down overreactive skin cells and calm inflammation.
The sun even aids in your sleep pattern. There is a direct line between decreased sun exposure and cognitive impairment. Natural sunlight impacts our circadian rhythm, which affects serotonin and melatonin production. Without proper light wave exposure, serotonin can’t produce enough melatonin to induce a regular sleep cycle later in the evening.
Benefits of Fresh Air
There are many proven health benefits of fresh air. Some of these include stress relief, boosted energy, reduced high blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, improved sleep, and even clear lungs.
When you breathe in, oxygen enters your lungs and then moves into the blood, while carbon dioxide moves out and is exhaled. Mold, pet dander, stale carpet, and bacteria can contribute to a poorer quality of air inside your house, so your lungs could use a break!
Breathing in the fresh air and smelling the outdoor plants and flowers has even been shown to relieve anxiety and stress-related issues. This is because oxygen aids in the release of serotonin, which is our mood-regulating hormone. More serotonin means a generally happier mood.
Many studies show that time spent outside has critical psychological effects on the mind, including decreased negative thoughts, reduced symptoms of ADHD and ADD, and improved cognitive development. Breathing in fresh air increases the amount of oxygen moving into your blood and brain, improving mental clarity.
Benefits of Grounding
Another way to reap the benefits of going outside is to engage in grounding, also known as earthing. Grounding is an exercise where you place your bare hands or feet directly against the Earth’s surface. It is prevalent in many cultures worldwide and has been shown to improve overall health and well-being.
Encounters with nearby nature help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. Different parts of our brain activate in nature—our mind calms, leading to physical changes, like a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
Did you know 90% of chronic health conditions are linked to inflammation? The Earth is FULL of antioxidants, which help to protect healthy cells from inflammation damage. When we touch the surface of the Earth, free electrons are transferred through the skin and into our bodies. They then pair up with free radicals to act as antioxidants.
In the same way, grounding and its anti-inflammatory properties can improve wound healing. In fact, it is possible to feel a decrease in pain in as little as 30 minutes.
Physically connecting your body to the Earth can improve sleep, reduce pain, increase heart rate variability, increase wound healing, reduce blood viscosity, reduce stress, and so much more.
So what now?
GO OUTSIDE! Scientists have proven that simply looking at the color green can reduce stress levels, so the benefits of spending time outdoors speak for themselves. Not to mention going outside gets you engaged in physical activity. Whether you are walking, biking, golfing, gardening, or sitting, mother nature is ready to serve you.
“nature is not an amenity—it’s a necessity. We need to take it seriously.”
-Assoc. Prof. Marc Berman, director of University of Chicago’s Environmental Neuroscience Lab
Also to find other ways to get healthy and stay healthy for a lifetime contact our Littleton, CO wellness center.