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“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.

Lucky for us here on Australia’s east coast, our home is a land of sunshine, fresh air and generally balmy conditions. And there are so many positive benefits for spending time outdoors that relate both to mental wellbeing and physical health. So this summer, while you enjoy playing with the kids outdoors, take a moment to realise the benefits that screen-free outdoor fun is having on everyone.

Breathe in 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.

Soak up 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.

Feel less stressed

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!

Just be sure to protect your skin

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.

Now that you know why you should spend time outside, it’s time to talk about the how! Hitting the road on a family road trip is one of the best ways to enjoy time outdoors these summer holidays – here are five top tips for your adventure.

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haven  

haven is all about family, life and style in Brisbane's inner city suburbs, the Gold Coast, south to Byron Bay. We have been keeping parents in the know for over eight years, with fun, fresh and helpful stories that they can take tips from or treasure in their own library.