So much has changed in the past few months, but thankfully getting outside is still one of the healthiest and simplest things you can do. Experts have been consistent in recommending that people spend as much time outside as possible as long as they observe social distancing and safety measures. Below are a few more reasons to make the most of the warm weather.
Get it While It’s Hot!
I’m talking about Vitamin D, of course. The so-called sunshine vitamin is elusive during many of the months in our northern city. Some doctors are starting to recommend Vitamin D supplementation for everyone at our latitude because it can be incredibly hard to stock up on in the darker months. This vitamin is so critical to our health and wellbeing that it makes sense to seek it out through time spent in the sun. While it takes a significant deficiency to cause a severe disease like rickets, a minor lack can still cause problems. Low levels of Vitamin D may contribute to a depressed mood, joint pain, frequent illness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and accelerated bone loss. One of the best ways to tackle this problem is to spend the first 20 minutes of your time in the sun without sunscreen. Also, keep in mind that as we age, it becomes harder to create and absorb Vitamin D, so you may want to ask for a test at your next doctor’s appointment. A simple blood test will alert you to whether you need further supplementation. In the meantime, soak up that sun and enjoy the excellent mood boost!
And Chill Out
Everyone can use some extra stress reduction these days. So much of our daily lives have been interrupted. One of the few things that remain unaffected is nature. Early studies show that outdoor environments change the expression of stress in the body and decrease cortisol, the hormone responsible for it. Green space and fresh air also correlate to a reduction in anxiety and depression. One study found that any exercise performed outside, even a leisurely walk, helps to lower activity in the pre-frontal cortex. That is the portion of our brain that ruminates over negative thoughts.
Judson’s Community Wellness Coordinator, Diane Menges, knows the powerful connection between nature and our physical, emotional, and mental health. She says, “I need to see GREEN! We don’t realize the effect that being out in nature has on our mental and emotional wellbeing, whether it’s in your garden or walking in the neighborhood or park. Seeing the trees, grass, and flowers, hearing the birds and squirrels, noticing the dappled sunlight of a walk through the woods! There is nothing like being out in nature to lift the spirits and ease the mind.” One study that asked participants to rate their happiness before and after spending time in a park and found that over 67% of people felt happier afterward!
Sleep on It
One of the best side effects of sun exposure is the powerful effect it has on our circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. Multiple studies have found that copious daylight leads to better and longer sleep for nearly everyone. Happily, men and women over the age of 65 get the most sleep benefits from sunshine and green space. Fresh air is a free and natural sleep aid!
In this current season of our lives, many of us have experienced more stress and anxiety than usual. But as the famous writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, said, “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” All that’s left is to lace up your sneakers and get out there!