After spending hours in your work cubicle, getting a big breath of fresh air and feeling the warm glow of the sun on your skin can be rejuvenating. What you may not know is that exposure to sunlight and fresh air actually offers your body health benefits that can last a lifetime.
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Inhaling fresh air helps clear your lungs and enables you to take deeper, longer breaths of air -- which increases the amount of oxygen that’s transported to your body’s cells. Increased oxygen in your body translates to greater energy and clarity of mind. According to a group of studies published in a 2010 issue of the "Journal of Environmental Psychology," research participants reported feeling happier, healthier and more alive when they spent time in nature.
Improved Overall Health
Spending about 30 minutes in the sun can provide you with nearly a day’s supply of vitamin D through skin absorption, according to an article in the April, 2008 issue of the "Environmental Health Perspectives" journal. Having enough vitamin D in your body helps your bones form properly, which reduces your risk of developing bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Getting enough vitamin D per day may also reduce your risk of other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Furthermore, getting some UV radiation from sunlight on a daily basis can help reduce an overactive immune system for people with autoimmune conditions such as lupus and psoriasis.
Reduced Stress and Depression
Phytoncides are airborne chemicals that plants and trees emit for protection from insects and rot. These chemicals, which linger in forest fresh air, also happen to be at the center of research in regards to stress reduction. A 2008 study published in the “Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents” recruited participants to spend time walking forest and city areas for this very reason. According to the research, participants showed more physical signs of relaxation – including lower blood pressure and lower amounts of the stress hormone cortisol – when they spent time in the forest rather than in the city. Sunlight is also thought to help ward off depression and stress because the “happy” chemical serotonin is higher in the brain during the time of year when days are longer.
Soaking in daylight for at least 15 minutes at the same time every day, particularly in the morning hours, helps your body shut off a snooze-inducing chemical called melatonin, according to an article in "Health" by the U.S. News & World Report. This will help your body develop a more stable night time and day time clock so you’re less likely to have trouble sleeping when the sun goes down.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- FitWatch: Fresh Air Does a Body Good
- ScienceDaily: Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive, Study Shows
- The New York Times “Health”: The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost Immunity; Anahad O’Connor; 2010
- Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents; A Forest Bathing Trip Increases Human Natural Killer Activity and Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins in Female Subjects; Q. Li, et al; 2008
- U.S. News & World Report “Health”; Host of Health Benefits Attributed to Sunlight; D. Kotz; 2008
- U.S. News & World Report “Health”; Light at Night: How to Counter the Health Effects; D. Kotz; 2008
- "Environmental Health Perspectives"; Benefits of Sunlight; M. Mead; 2008
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure