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Summer Lovin’

Summer Lovin’

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” but now research is showing that fresh air and sunshine, more so, are what the doctor should be ordering.

We are lucky to call Australia’s east coast home. It’s a land of sunshine, fresh air and generally balmy conditions. There are so many positive benefits for spending time outdoors that relate both to mental wellbeing and physical health. So this summer, while enjoying playing with the kids outdoors, take a moment to realise the benefits that screen-free outdoor fun is having on everyone!

Fresh air
There are many proven benefits of breathing fresh air. Among them:

  • Fresh air helps improve blood pressure and heart rate
  • Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen helping you digest food more effectively
  • The more fresh air you get, the more oxygen you will breathe which will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) in your system. Put simply, fresh air makes you happier.
  • By increasing the amount of fresh air we get, will increase the amount of oxygen which helps our white blood cells function properly by fighting and killing bacteria and germs.
  • Fresh air cleans your lungs. You lungs dilate more from having an increase of oxygen so fresh air improves the lung function.
  • Fresh air gives you more energy and a sharper mind. You will come back indoors feeling brighter because of more oxygen results in greater brain function, improving your concentration skills and providing you with more energy.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is primarily known for its role in bone health. It helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphate, reduces calcium loss from bones and is needed for bone growth. There are suggestions that it also plays an important role in other aspects of human health especially immunity and infection control. Recent research on tuberculosis bacteria has shed light on the critical role vitamin D plays in the function of T-cells, which are white blood cells that fight infection in the body.

Vitamin D is also linked to fighting flu and other respiratory infections due to its role in the production of infection-fighting amino acids (antimicrobial peptides).

According to Choice and ABS data, some four million Australians suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. This has been put down for overzealous use of sunscreen and sun protection, as well as our increasing preference towards indoor recreation. Choice states that the ‘right’ amount of outdoor sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels is 6-7 minutes of sun with arms and hands exposed outside the hours of 10am-2pm for those moderately fair skinned. However, those with darker skin may need 3-6 times as much sun exposure.

Get energised
The “Journal of Environmental Psychology” published a group of studies in 2010 that showed “being outdoors was associated with greater vitality”.

Research participants reported just generally feeling happier, healthier and more alive when they spent time outdoors and in nature.

Reduce stress
Phytoncides are airborne chemicals that plants and trees emit for protection from insects and rot. These chemicals also happen to be at the centre 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 compared to the city. Sounds like the perfect excuse to get outside with the family!

Kiddie road trip essentials
Getting outdoors for the summer holidays also screams “road trip!”. Here are Caravanning with Kids’ Adele Dyson’s Top 5 must have for your car when travelling long-haul with kids this summer:

  1. TOWELS: We have two old towels in our car at all times. Think emergencies: car-sick spews, spilt drinks, little accidents. Towels are your insurance policy.
  2. CHANGE OF CLOTHES: Adele admits her own mum’s words are ringing in my ears: “Never leave the house without a change of clothes.” You just never know what you’re up for with kids so make like a boy scout and be prepared.
  3. WIPES: When the kids were small and in nappies, like all of us, Adele says she always had wipes with her. But after nappy era, wipes are perfect for sticky fingers, messy faces, little spills, dirt and grime after a play at the roadside park. Always have a pack in the glove box.
  4. SPARE WATER: This might seem like a no-brainer – everyone carries water, right?! Just make sure your stocks are full because there’s nothing worse than a water bottle with no water in it.
  5. SPARE COMFORTER: You might not even need your back up blanky or comforting soft toy but in the emergency when you do need it, boy, you’ll be grateful your back-up was packed!

Get appy
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes wrinkles and skin and eye damage, ultimately leading to skin cancer. UV cannot be seen or felt. It is not like the sun’s light which we see or the sun’s warmth (infrared radiation) which we feel. Our senses cannot detect UV so it can be damaging without us knowing. The free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location using forecast information from the Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV data from ARPANSA. A clever friend on the beach this summer and available on the App Store for iOS devices.

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