Photo by Henri Pham on Unsplash
Spring has sprung, and it’s really a magical time here in the midwest. We Minnesotans may still be shaking off the thirty-below days we had just moments ago in February, and the days that hit the high forties and sunny feel like a warm blessing from the sky god's right about now.
Did you know spring can bring in a few solid health benefits as well?
“sneeze What? sniffle” you may be asking me through your spring allergies with all that extra pollen and snow mold floating around.
Before all you spring allergy sufferers write me off, hear me out...
After the clocks magically spring forward an hour in mid-March, you begin to accrue more after-work daylight hours. More daylight in the evenings means more time to play outside, work in the garden, go on a bike ride, sit out on your deck and soak in the sunshine, or go meet your friends after work.
More vitamin D that’s not in supplement form!
While it’s important to supplement vitamin D in the winter, particularly for those that live in cold climates, nothing beats natural vitamin D from the sun itself.
Your skin synthesizes vitamin D when it’s exposed to “pinking levels of sunlight” for roughly a quarter of the time that it would take you to burn. Those that live in cold climates, those with milk allergies, and those on strict vegan diets are more likely to have vitamin D deficiencies, and a deficiency of this particular fat-soluble vitamin can cause a weakened immune system, fatigue, depression, and in some cases, widespread chronic pain.
Trees soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen; this happens through a process called photosynthesis which, for most species of trees, happens on the green part of the leaves called chloroplasts.
Because trees lose all their leaves in the winter, photosynthesis doesn’t really happen then, but they plenty make up for it when the right season hits.
Most photosynthesis occurs in spring and summer when the leaves have sprouted. Because of this, more oxygen is being put into the air in these seasons than in the winter, so go breathe it all in while you can!
More fresh produce!
Eating what’s in season is excellent for our bodies, and helps us connect with the natural world around us. In-season produce also tastes much better (imho, but do you really disagree?).
After the ground unfreezes, you can expect to see more produce such as asparagus, artichokes, greens like arugula, chard, and spinach, rhubarb, and garlic, to name a few.
If you want to get really wild, give foraging a try. The forest provides so many delicious treats if you know where to look, such as morel mushrooms, fiddleheads, and ramps (yum!).
More time outside!
As the daylight hours extend and the weather warms up, you can spend more time outside. Being outside in the sunshine isn’t only great for your vitamin D intake, but it can also help lower blood pressure and stress, improves your mood, sleep quality, and focus, and can help boost immunity.
Some studies have demonstrated that it’s easier for some people to exercise outdoors. Also, if winter is too cold and summer is too hot, spring and fall present the perfect opportunities to take your workout outdoors.
Working out outside when it’s nice out can also help you workout longer. This study found that older adults that exercised outside at least once a week accumulated more overall physical activity than their counterparts that exercised indoors only.
Being exposed to sunlight may help reduce the experience of pain. This study showed that patients who had undergone spinal surgery and were put in sunny recovery rooms experienced less stress, less pain, and took around 22% less analgesic medication per hour, reducing the overall cost of pain-killing medication than the control group.
Sunlight is thought to be a natural mood enhancer. Sunlight can increase levels of serotonin, which is the body’s “happy chemical.” Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight will increase serotonin levels in yeast extracts, suggesting a direct relationship between serotonin levels and sunshine.
Spring cleaning has a number of health benefits, according to experts. Having a more organized space can help reduce mental stress and boost your overall mood, removing the “stuffocated” feeling one can get from having too much stuff lying around.
Spring cleaning can also help boost your immune system by keeping dust, mold, and other allergens at bay, preventing respiratory issues and allergy outbreaks.
Researchers at Indiana University also found that those who had tidy homes were more likely to be physically fit than those who lived in messy homes.
Spring is a wonderful, happy time of year, at least to me it is. As we Minnesotans emerge from our winter dens and feel the warm, natural sunlight on our dried out winter skin for the first time in months, it really feels like the beginning of something beautiful.
Spring also brings health benefits, like boosted vitamin D, sunlight, produce, oxygen, and good times outside with good friends.
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