If the average person kept a diary of how much time they spent outside versus inside, time under an open sky would be surprisingly minuscule. Most of us have jobs that tie us to our desks, and our exposure to fresh air and sunshine is limited to a run to the corner espresso stand and periodically taking out the garbage.
Unless you work and live in a new, environmentally progressive building or home replete with air filtering systems that continually replace the indoor air with fresh, purified air, then you’re probably inhaling all sorts of dusts, wastes, toxins and itsy bitsy critters that feed on it all. Here at Best Day Ever, we can usually tell when someone is shaking out the dust and heaven-knows-what-else from their computer keyboard because we’ll hear a rattle, rattle, rattle then a loud “Ewwww.”
Truth is, most of us are breathing stale air with depleted oxygen that’s shared by any number of people who are exhaling into it all the toxic wastes thrown off by our cells during our body’s metabolic processes. The continual breathing of stale air—and a buildup of toxins it contains—can lead to fatigue, headaches, anxiety, respiratory illnesses, anxiety and other maladies.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the cells throughout your body, which are dependent on it to correctly perform their zillions of functions. So give your body a break and your energy a boost by going outside in search of some fresh air.
Fresh air with its high levels of oxygen:
- Is absolutely necessary for your body’s energy and metabolism.
- Strengthens the immune system. White cells need additional oxygen when they’re destroying viruses, bacteria, and other nasties, so keep them well supplied.
- Improves concentration (the brain needs at least 20% of the body’s oxygen to function properly).
- Boosts serotonin levels and improves mood.
- Improves the cleansing action of the lungs, forcing out toxins and waste, when deep breaths are taken.
- Helps improve heart rate and blood pressure.
- Helps reduce sore muscles by reducing lactic acid build-up during exercise.
- Contains negative ions, especially after a rain, on windy days, around vegetation and in abundant sunlight—that boost mental clarity, mood, and overall well-being.
Sunshine offers some of the same benefits as fresh air plus a few unique ones all its own. How nice of Mother Nature to connect the two together for us, so that breathing fresh air is often accompanied by catching some rays! One of the primary reasons our bodies need regular doses of sunshine is due to the vitamin D created by our exposure to it.
Vitamin D is produced when sunshine interacts with our skin. Researchers are discovering that this vitamin is far more necessary to our bodies than previously thought and that more than half the adults in the U.S. and Europe are deficient in it. I am; despite taking Vitamin D supplements, my latest blood work showed that my Vitamin D levels are on the scary side of “low.” So, I’m upping my Vitamin D supplements. Studies indicate that everything from headaches to weight gain, muscle cramps, and insomnia could be related to low levels of the “sunshine vitamin.”
One of the primary functions of vitamin D is its role in the maintenance of bone health and protection against osteoporosis. Proper levels of vitamin D also therapeutically benefit diabetics and people with heart disease, and you’re more likely to survive a heart attack if your body enjoys adequate levels of the vitamin. Research also links vitamin D to prevention against depression, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, allergies in children and some cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate and colon. In fact, one rather alarming study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that deficient exposure to direct sunlight could result in a70% increased chance of developing cancer.
Exposure to sunshine triggers many other benefits, too. Natural sunlight:
- Is a natural antiseptic, and exposure to it can kill some molds, viruses, bacteria and even dust mites. (Look that last one up if you want to get grossed out!)
- Is a natural therapy for skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
- Helps with digestion and elimination.
- Raises mood levels by increasing serotonin levels and the production of endorphins. Increases red blood cell production, which carries oxygen throughout the body and to your brain.
- Increases white blood cell production necessary for your immune systems and the fighting of disease.
- Improves liver function so it can more efficiently eliminate toxins and wastes from the body.
- Speeds up metabolism which help prevent obesity, quite possibly lowers blood cholesterol levels, regulates sleep patterns for insomniacs, and may even slow down the aging process.
So how much sunshine and vitamin D do we need? The best way to determine whether you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have your doctor run a blood test. You may be surprised to discover that you’re profoundly deficient, as some of us here in the Best Day Ever offices did to our horror. But if you can’t afford a blood test, then many health experts recommend that a good insurance against vitamin D deficiencies in adults is the taking of 800 IUs daily of the vitamin. If you live in an overcast climate (like the Pacific Northwest!) or get little sun exposure, you may want to increase that amount to 1500 to 2000 IUs. I’m taking 8,000 which seems super high so I’ll be doing another test in the next couple of months to make sure I don’t OD on Vitamin D. Here’s a good place to check out appropriate levels by age group: How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
Getting direct exposure to sun will take a little more effort. As a general rule, dark skin requires more sunlight, while light skin requires less. Even just 10 minutes per day of direct sunlight will stimulate vitamin D production. (Don’t forget that both light and dark skin still need a bit of sun-block to prevent wrinkles and the possibility of over-exposure.) And did you know that UV light doesn’t produce vitamin D through glass? Sitting by a window isn’t the same as sunshine falling directly on your skin. So, now that you know the facts…get up, go outside and get up close and personal with fresh air and sunshine!
Call to Action: Let’s get our Vitamin D levels up TOGETHER! Go buy a bottle of D3 and take a minimum of 800 IUs per day. If you’re like me and have actual blood work to reference, take what your doctor recommends but if you’re just learning about Vitamin D, 800 is a great place to start.