Springtime Provides the Perfect Opportunity to Improve Your Health
Now that spring has arrived, many of us look forward to spending more time outdoors. And that’s a good thing! Unless where you live is under a smog alert and has poor quality air warnings, being outdoors has numerous health benefits, particularly if you engage in some form of physical activity. Here are just some of the ways being outdoors does a body good.
According to one study, over a billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s disease. A vitamin D deficiency may even raise the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. One of the easiest ways to get the vitamin D we need is to expose ourselves to sunlight. Of course, this has to be combined with protecting ourselves from too much sun exposure, which can cause sunburn and increase our risk of skin cancer. Harvard Health Publishing recommends exposing your arms and legs to 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight a few times a week. Talk to your dermatologist or family doctor about the best way to get the sunlight you need, while protecting your skin.
Your mood will improve
Several studies have shown that the simple act of being outdoors can lift one’s spirits. Some studies suggest that exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to reduce anxiety and improve you mood. Combining being outdoors with exercise helps even more. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, both men and women had increased self-esteem after exercising outdoors.
You may get more benefit from exercise
Speaking of exercise, a study by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in England found that people who exercised outside had increased energy and revitalization, as well as decreased confusion, anger, depression and tension, compared to those who exercised indoors. Participants who did their exercise outside also reported enjoying their workouts more and said they were more likely to repeat them their indoor exercise counterparts. Canadian researchers discovered that study subjects – consisting of postmenopausal women – were more likely to adhere to a training program when it was done outdoors. Outdoor environments also provide your body with more of a challenge that a treadmill or stationary bike. Varying landscapes, strong winds, and uneven surfaces force your mind and body to adapt to your surroundings.
You may heal more quickly
A University of Pittsburgh study showed the people recovering from spinal surgery took less pain medication when exposed to natural light. Even being able to see the outdoors may have positive health effects. Another study, published in the journal Science suggests that, all other things being equal, patients who had a view of leafy trees healed a day faster, needed less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications that patients whose view was of a brick wall.
You may live longer
Although there may be no way to prove a direct cause and effect relationship, according to researchers from Harvard University, people who have access to green spaces live longer according to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. “Green spaces” include gardens and parks. In addition to reducing the risk of death due to cancer or respiratory diseases, researchers discovered that many study participants also enjoyed better mental health.