5 Science-Backed Reasons Fresh Air is Good for You
After a long winter, there’s nothing quite like a breath of fresh air on a sunny spring day. But did you know that getting outside is scientifically proven to be good for your health? From the sunshine vitamin to improved recovery, read on to find out how you can benefit from being outside.
- Vitamin D
You’ve probably heard vitamin D referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” But do you know why? Similar to how plants absorb light and convert it into energy, our skin absorbs UV-B rays and converts it into vitamin D. Studies suggest that vitamin D can help protect against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, heart attack and stroke. The problem is most Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, especially if they live in northernmost states. That’s why it’s important to spend at least 10-15 minutes outside on sunny days, or take a supplement during winter months.
Yes, you can be active without being outside. However, being indoors tends to favor more sedentary activities like watching movies or TV, or spending time online. Studies have shown that American children spend an average of 6 hours a day indoors on devices. In contrast, British researchers used activity trackers to sense the movement of 1,000 children—and found that they were twice as active when outdoors. So if you’re feeling sluggish, just going outside will improve the likelihood that you’ll increase your physical activity. Always check with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Ever feel down during the dark and dreary winter months? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs when winter daylight hours are very short. The lack of sunlight can throw off your biological clock and sleep patterns, which can lead to an imbalance of serotonin levels and mood swings. Getting outside now that daylight hours are longer can help counteract the winter blues.
Need a break from work? Try taking a walk. A 2008 study showed that children with ADHD were able to concentrate better after spending time in green spaces. Even though the findings don’t directly apply to adults, getting your steps in while enjoying nature still has its benefits.
In 2005, the University of Pittsburgh found that natural light had a positive influence on patients in post-surgical recovery. Patients experienced less pain, therefore needing less medication to treat pain, and had improved outcomes overall. While an open window isn’t quite the same as being outdoors, having visible access to nature still has a positive impact.