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Gotta’ Run: It’s time to get outside and here’s why

The wet weather of the winter and cold temperatures always make me look forward to spring. Just in the last couple of weeks, the longer days and some drier, warmer, more spring-like days have shown up. I can just feel an increase in energy on those days, and often a springlike day is way more productive in my various activities. Here are some of the reasons why we should all find time in the sunshine and the out of doors.

Sunshine is important for your bones, blood cells and immune system. It also helps your body absorb more of certain minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. Your body needs sunlight to make vitamin D, but you don’t need much. In the summer, most people will thrive with anything over 30 minutes. In the winter, you will need a bit more. I tell my training clients to shoot for at least an hour a day.

Exercise is always good for anxiety too. But it’s even better if you do it outside, compared to inside a gym or at home. Many of us feel like we’ve been cooped up too long already. Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps to raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive and focused.

The outdoors helps set your sleep cycle. Cells in your eyes need enough light to get your body’s internal clock working right. Early morning sunlight in particular seems to help people get to sleep at night. This may be more important as we age. When older, our eyes are less able to absorb light, and thus more likely to have problems with sleep.

Many plants put substances, including organic compounds called phytoncides, into the air that seem to boost immune function. Sunlight also seems to energize special cells in your immune system called T cells that help fight infection.

Studies show that time in nature can boost your creative problem-solving abilities. This is partly because the outside world engages your attention in a quieter way that lets your attention refocus. The more time you spend, the bigger the benefit, but even just “getting out for some air” can nudge your brain into a new thought pattern. And creativity gets supercharged when exercise and the out of doors are combined. Especially when electronics are set aside during outdoor time.

Studies also show that walking in nature helps restore our focus and helps us shrug off societal pressures, allowing us to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing and community. Just taking a brief walk while at work or school can put us back into a productive mode.

All these outdoor positives make us better people. And just being outside regularly lowers mortality by 12% compared to those who stay inside. What’s better than the smell of freshly cut grass, flowers or recently tilled dirt! I catch as many sunrises or sunsets as possible. Just a couple of afternoons ago, I spotted a majestic crane flying away from the creek.

Long ago, I decided that a good day outdoors enhances my running and other activities the next day. Maybe it’s a mixture of all things previously mentioned but it sure works for me. And I hope just seeing these positives in print will provide encouragement for your own outdoor time.

And finally, if you have thought about joining a running class, there is still plenty of space available for the spring series provided by the Salisbury Rowan Runners, Novant Health and Salisbury Parks and Recreation. We are meeting again at the Salisbury Police Department. First class is March 16 at 6 p.m. Eight weeks of classroom instruction and on the road coaching to a better you, and yes, we will be outdoors gathering all those positives. www.salisburyrowanrunners.org or 704-310-6741.  

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