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The health benefits of fresh air and sunshine

With snow settling around parts of the country in recent weeks, it’s tempting to want to take up camp in front of the fire and the TV. However, fresh air and sunshine are essential for keeping on top of our physical health and mental wellbeing. No – you don’t need to suddenly start cross country running, but we should all be taking the time to get outside, just for a bit, every day. Here’s a quick guide to all the benefits you’ll get from spending some time outdoors.

Reduces your stress levels

With everything going on, it’s not unusual to be feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. Even if it is just for a few minutes a day, going for a walk outside can do your brain the world of good. Getting some fresh air is scientifically proven to reduce your stress levels, helping you to clear your mind.  With each breath that you take, your lungs take in more fresh air, causing your oxygen levels to increase. More oxygen circulates to your brain, meaning that you will feel more energised and awake. All it takes is a few breaths of fresh air and your mind will be clearer, sharper, calmer and ultimately, more relaxed.

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Increases your levels of serotonin

Getting fresh air also helps to expel feelings of anxiety and stress by increasing our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance found in our bodies that is used to regulate how we are feeling. It boosts our mood, increases our feelings of happiness and enables us to feel calmer and more focused. The more fresh air that you take in, the more oxygen you breathe in, increasing your serotonin levels. It is also thought that the sun is a great way to boost your serotonin levels – who doesn’t feel better when the sun is out? Even if it is for a brief walk around the block, get outside and make the most out of it, whenever you can. Another easy way to increase your levels of serotonin is to eat. From steaming coffees and hot chocolates topped with cream to freshly baked goods, every weekend our cafe here at Bewl Water is open for takeaway.

Increased levels of vitamin D

When it comes to our physical health, Vitamin D is essential and has many roles around our body. It helps us to absorb calcium and phosphate from our food, keeping our bones, teeth and muscles nice and strong. Vitamin D can be found in tinned tuna, salmon, sardines, egg yolks and cod liver oil. However, because very few foods contain enough, getting out in the sunshine is the best way to boost your vitamin D levels. As you cannot naturally produce vitamin D on your own, you need help from the sun! Whilst you enjoy yourself in the sunshine, your skin gets to work, making vitamin D from the sunlight. The ultraviolet rays hit the cholesterol in our skin cells, providing the necessary energy for vitamin D to be created. According to the NHS, the best time to get out in the sun is midday. This is because the sun is at its highest point, so you can spend less time in the sun and still make a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Take advantage of your lunch break and go for a gentle stroll in the sunshine.

Strengthens your immune system

Spending some time in the fresh air increases your physical health by improving your immune system. Say, for example, you and your family go for a walk through the woods. Whilst you spend some time enjoying the nature that surrounds you, the plants emit a range of substances, including phytoncides. Phytoncides have antibacterial properties, which plants use to fight off disease. When you breathe these in, your body increases its number of white blood cells (which kill virus-infected cells in our bodies), boosting your immune function. Sunlight also helps our immune system by energising T cells, which help our body by fighting against infection.

Decreases your blood pressure and heart rate

Spending some time outside can also be beneficial for your blood pressure and heart rate. According to researchers, spending time outdoors can increase your energy levels. In turn, higher energy levels can be linked to creating longer-term, healthy habits, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. Another way to improve your heart rate is to exercise. Whilst we are in lockdown, exercising outdoors is allowed with your household, or with one person from another household. Outdoor exercise is great as it can be adapted easily, depending on your fitness levels, how much time you have and the facilities available. Take advantage of all the great activities that we have here at Bewl Water. Our Adventure Playground is still open for your children to explore, as are a number of our walking and cycling routes, giving you the chance to enjoy the fresh air whilst you take in the beautiful Wealden countryside.

Improves your sleep

Going outside and getting fresh air doesn’t just help your health, it also helps you to get a better night’s sleep. Sunlight plays a big part in regulating our circadian rhythm – that is, the body’s internal clock which tells us when we should feel awake and when we should be resting. Going out for a walk in the sunshine means that you are exposing yourself to natural light, helping your body to calibrate a healthy circadian rhythm. Exercise also helps to create a healthier sleeping pattern. After working up a sweat, your body also burns calories cooling itself down. With all this extra energy that your body expends, you will feel more tired afterwards and find it easier to nod off.

Make sure to keep your safety in mind. When outside, keep a distance of six feet from others and wash your hands as often as you can. To help you to exercise safely, here at Bewl Water we encourage you to come and visit and get some fresh air.