I truly believe that even with the stress of everything we are facing right now, we can still feel healthier than ever if we intentionally set up supportive, comforting and deeply healing health routines.
So all winter long, I’m going to be giving you a weekly blog post full of uplifting ways to improve your health, and every single idea is something you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Social distancing approved.
It’s a new mini-series I’m releasing for you to help boost your health over these next three winter months. Forward this newsletter to a friend or a family member so that they can take part in this healing mini-series with you!
The series so far has been:
And now on to today’s topic: getting outside.
Think of all of your essential health and wellness routines: hydrating throughout the day, washing hands, taking care to get enough sleep, brushing your teeth, taking supplements, wearing a seatbelt in the car. Do you consider going outside each and every day as essential as any of those other health care activities?
I think you should. Time spent outside actually boosts your longevity, so making it part of a daily wellness routine is an easy yet crucial thing you can do to protect your innate health.
Today, I want to encourage you to find some way to go outside. Run, walk, stand, even sit… think of any and all activities that you do indoors that you could move outdoors and go do it!
Because even in the winter, and even during a pandemic, we still need to find ways to be outside. Here’s why:
1. Boosted Vitamin D
Most of us know that if we get a few minutes of time outside under the sun, it will naturally boost our levels of Vitamin D. But did you know how extensive the benefits are to boosting your vitamin D levels? Vitamin D is necessary for brain health, bone health, immune function, metabolism, mood, and even cancer recovery, to name a few.
- Brain Health: Low vitamin D levels are associated with a substantial acceleration of memory loss and cognitive decline. Published Sept 14, 2015 in JAMA Neurology, researchers looked at baseline vitamin D levels and mental status change in over 380 adults (average age 75 years old.). Vit D deficient adults with serum concentrations of vit D lower than 20 ng/mL declined 3 times faster in cognitive function and in memory impairment compared to those with serum vit D levels of greater than 20 ng/mL. Another study, published in Neurology on August 9, 2014 found that patients with low levels of Vit D have a 122% increased risk of dementia compared to those with higher levels of vit D. Their findings showed that the critical level to prevent dementia is greater than 50 nmol/L.
- Bone Health: A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery found that at over half of the patients that present with stress factors of the bone have vit D insufficiency. Vit D concentrations are linked to the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus… … in fact, if you are vitamin D deficient, you are only absorbing approximately 10 — 15% of your dietary calcium and only roughly half of the dietary phosphorus you consume. So it’s easy to see how Vit D deficiency can lead quickly to a decrease in bone mineralization… and allow for more fractures to occur.
- Reduced Diabetes Risk: There are multiple studies showing that a deficit in Vit D levels increases your risk of developing diabetes… especially type 2 diabetes. In some studies, the risk of developing diabetes actually doubles in the face of low vitamin D levels!
- Weight Loss: By simply adding Vit D supplementation to your weight loss plan, you reduce your whole-body inflammation and blood markers of inflammation, shows a study published April 23m 2015 in Cancer Prevention Research.
- Decreased Risk of Depression: Yet another amazing study has come out showing a positive correlation between Vitamin D and mood. Published in the November 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers followed 12,594 participants and found that higher Vitamin D levels are associated with a significantly decreased risk of depression.
- Cancer Recovery: A huge meta-analysis looking at 25 different studies and 17,700+ cancer patients found definitively, yet again, that higher levels of circulating Vit D at time of diagnosis was associated with significantly better survival and remission rates in the future. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism on April 29, 2014, researchers found that colorectal cancer, breast cancer and lymphoma patients all had impressive, significantly higher survival rates in patients who had the highest Vit D serum levels. They also had increased disease free rates afterwards (longer remission periods after cancer treatment) so it makes sense that Vit D may be the protective mechanism of action in prolonging life expectancy. But right now, my number one reason I love getting the sun to naturally boost my vitamin D levels? Turns out, Vitamin D helps you fight infections too.
- Boosted Immunity: As this medical literature review discusses (published in 2018 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences) Vitamin D not only directly boosts our immune adaptive response (meaning our bodies are better able to fight off new, novel, mutating and never-before-seen pathogens) but it also decreases inflammation, a leading cause of mortality during viral infection.
Vitamin D is so important to your natural immunity that even if you get direct sunshine outside or through a window daily, I highly recommend that you test your vitamin D lives and supplement with Vitamin D as needed.
The vitamin D supplement I take is Carlson Labs Solar D Gems… it’s 2,000 IU of Vitamin D in 500 mg of fish oil. Vitamin D supplements need to be oil emulsified for best absorption, so if your Vit D supplements are dry capsules, switch to an oil emulsion or soft gel. And the extra Omega 3 fatty acids in the Solar D Gems are an added bonus. Find my very favorite, tried and true, most trusted pharmacy grade Vitamin D supplements — including these Solar D Gems — at a special discount in my online dispensary here.
One of my biggest passions as a holistic physician is encouraging people to touch the earth outside to naturally decrease inflammation in their body, a healing practice known as grounding.
When you are grounded to the earth, as you are when you touch the earth in any way (including touching any plants, soil, dirt, rocks and water that is on the earth) you are supporting your health on the most fundamental level. Inflammation decreases, stress hormones decrease, metabolism gets a boost, pain decreases and mood lifts.
If you want a complete overview of the past 20 years worth of medical studies on how grounding supports your health, head over here to read them all.
- For example, one study (published in the Journal Of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine in 2010) found that subjects who were grounded had 40% less muscle inflammation and significantly less soreness after exertion than non-grounded subjects. They also had lower pain levels and significantly lower blood cortisol levels.
- Another study,published in 2004 in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, found grounded subjects had a complete normalization of their cortisol patterns, suggesting a profound recovery from stress.
- And this study (published 2006 in European Biology and Bioelectricmagnetics ) monitored patient‘s brain waves on EEG and found an immediate shift of the central nervous system the moment patients were grounded to the earth.
Know the feeling of spending a morning in your garden or an afternoon walking along the beach and how calm, centered, and supported you feel? Grounding your body is at work here, decreasing stress and naturally reducing inflammation.
And grounding also helps you sleep better too! Not only will getting outside increase your exposure to daylight, which naturally helps regulate circadian rhythm, but the earth is actually equally responsible for our day/night rhythm, which scientists found out after experimenting with isolating subjects from the earth in shielded isolation chambers (published in 1970 in Life Sciences and Space Research.)
Because it is actually the frequency of the earth (along with with exposure to light) that regulates our natural biorhythms, it’s easy to understand how grounding our body with our planet can help enhance restorative sleep at night and boost daytime wakefulness. It’s also easy to see why staying indoors eventually leads to daytime sleepiness, nighttime wakefulness, and decreased quality of sleep at night, which is incredibly stressful to the body and ultimately decreases lifespan. Yet another reason to head outside and routinely make time to directly touch the earth, even if it’s just for a few moments a day.
And for a nice overview on how grounding can specifically support your health during this pandemic, this blog post I wrote for you is a must read.
If you are curious about grounding but not sure what to do once you get outside, I’ve written an idea book filled with hundreds of ideas to inspire and guide you, and help you troubleshoot to get the results you deeply crave.
Perfect when we are all looking for ways to stay active and healthy at home, and taking control over our own health. We need ways to protect and boost our own innate health right now, more than ever. We need ways that don’t require a doctor’s office visit — things we can do right at home to protect our wellness. Grounding is one of the most important ways I know to do this.
If you are not sure how you can get grounded when stay-at-home orders are in place, or if you live in a city and don’t have any access to a safe greenspace, this book is for you, because you absolutely can still ground daily for your health.
If you are not sure how to get grounded when the weather gets extreme, when the seasons change, what earth surfaces will actually ground you, how long you should ground for, or how to use grounding for specific health results, I wrote this book for you.
If you have kids at home right now and need daily ideas on ways to connect with them while also supporting their own innate health, this book is most definitely for you!
And if you are simply bored? This book has so many fabulous healing ideas that you could literally stay home for two years straight and never run out of new things to do each day.
Simply flip through and pick a page and choose your favorite idea off that page and get healing!
The Earth Prescription is waiting for you right here, right now, as well as at all major book sellers, on IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and more.
3. Increased Movement
Hate to exercise? Never made time to do it before? Just head outside and walk. Increasing your physical activity level increases longevity, no doubt about it.
And even during this pandemic, there is no reason, no matter how old you are, no matter if you’ve never ever exercised before, to start exercising in ways that resonate best with you.
New research published March 8, 2019 in JAMA Network Open shows that introducing physical activity later in life, even in your 60s (and as you’ll see in other studies below, in your 70’s and beyond as well) has a similar benefit of increasing lifespan as you would enjoy if you had been exercising since young adulthood.
Researchers looked at over 300,000 patients and found that exercising for an average of 2 hours a week was enough to protect longevity, significantly dropping their risk of dying from heart attack, stroke, cancer, and all causes of death combined.
But here is the interesting part… folks who were inactive but started to exercise in mid-life had every bit the protection to their lifespan as folks who were active from adolescence on.
- Participants who reported routinely exercising from adolescence had a 33% decreased risk of dying for any reason
- And participants who reported being inactive during young adulthood but increasing activity in midlife enjoyed a similar benefit, at a 34% decreased risk of dying for any reason.
This echoes what researchers found in a study published April 2017 in the Journal Of Geriatric Cardiology, where researchers looked at almost 3,000 adults, with an average age of 71, and evaluated their mortality rates in relationship to how much they exercise.
What they found is that adults who exercised routinely dropped their risk of dying from heart attack or stroke by almost 60%. But again, the interesting part is how you are never too old to boost your health with exercise. Because even though the average study participant was in their 70s, if during the study they increased the amount they exercised even more, their risk of dying from a cardiovascular dropped by an additional 25%!
So truly, I mean it, it’s never too late to start exercising routinely, because even if you up your activity level starting when you are in your 70s you are significantly, measurably protecting your health and prolonging your life.
Be sure to move outdoors daily, ideally combining some type of stretch or cardio boost during this outdoor time. I’m very heart-warmed to see so many families where I live going on after dinner walks, riding their bikes, jogging in the early hours of the morning, shooting basketballs in driveway hoops, jump roping, etc…
Whether you do it alone or with family or a friend, be sure to find some way to get your circulation up daily, and push yourself to make that an outdoor activity.
I like to do my online Barre3 workouts in my garage with the garage door open, and play tennis with my son on our neighborhood courts. Other ideas include yoga, stretching, tai chi, hiking, running, rollerblading, finding outdoor stairs to go up and down, working on a home garden bed or container garden, etc….
If you typically exercise indoors, find ways to move all or part of this exercise outside. Bring your weights outside. Bring your yoga mat outside. Bring your resistance band outside. Bring your jump rope outside. Bring your exercise YouTube videos outside. Bring your hula hoop outside! Anything! Everything! Walk, move, stretch, run, bike, keep moving every single day.
4. A Natural Mood Boost
A huge meta-analysis of the medical literature (published in 2019 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health) found that spending time outside in nature positively impacts mental health and increases emotional resilience. Participants enjoyed statistically significant improvement in mood, reduction in stress levels, decrease anxiety, decrease in depression, decrease in cortisol levels, boosted parameters of heart health, decreased blood pressure, and an over all improvement in quality of life, just by sitting or walking outdoors in nature.
And the best news? It doesn’t take long to receive these incredible uplifting benefits… as little as ten minutes will do it. An exciting study published in 2020 in Environment International found that mood significantly improved after only 10 minutes spent in a natural environment.
5. A View Of Trees
Multiple studies have found that having access to a garden or other green space — even simply viewing plants — decreases depression rates, anxiety rates, and dramatically reduces stress.
One study, called the MIND study (conducted in 2007) found that simply walking through a garden or greenway significantly improved mental health, while walking through areas without greenery (such as a shopping mall) significantly decreased mental health.
Even indoor gardens can positively impact on your well being, so don’t discount the power of a windowsill garden or a simple house plant to support your health.
An exciting study published in 1996 in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture, showed that simply adding plants to an indoor computer room not only boosted work place productivity, it also significantly decreased their blood pressure. At at time when many of us are working from home, consider adding plants intentionally to your work space, or move where you work to be near your best view of a tree, whether that tree is in your home or outside.
Being physically near plants is so impactful to our mental and physical health that it turns out, even just seeing a plant can significantly impact our recovery from stressful health events.
We have such an innate need to be submersed in a world with foliage and plants around us that a study (published in 1984 in Science) found that patients who simply had a view of plants through a window while recovering from surgery had better moods, used less pain medications, had less surgical post-op complications, and even decreased their length of stay in the hospital.
Less pain during recovery and getting to go home sooner after surgery just by looking at plants? That’s an awesome health strategy that I wish more hospital and clinics would take into account when designing their architecture.
So even if you hated my suggestion to exercise outside and prefer to look at nature through a window, make sure you pick a window where you can see greenery. Or sit outside under a tree. Or spend time near an indoor potted plant, if that’s what it takes.
Increase the number of plants you are around both inside and outside the home and boost your health naturally!
6. Preventive Health Maintnance
A study published in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences in 2012 showed that even a brief intervention of one single weekend spent in nature had significant health benefits â€” reducing stress, reducing inflammation, and even boosting the body’s immune response, compared to staying in an urban environment for the weekend.
Researchers studied subjects that had a two day immersion in nature and found they had measurably boosted immunity markers in the blood, lowered blood inflammatory markers, lower cortisol levels, boosted natural killer cells, along with improvement of several other markers of immunity and inflammation.
But here is the best part: not only was this health boost significant immediately, but it persisted for an entire month after just that one single weekend in nature! So one weekend in nature sustained an improvement in health for weeks, well after the subjects returned to their urban living.
The immune boost and reduction in stress on the body is thought to be a result of exposures to the phytoncides (a fancy word for essential oils) that trees emit. The researchers even suggest that routine visits in nature may provide long term anti-cancer benefits, because the subjects who spent a weekend in nature had boosted T Cell and Natural Killer cell function (which produce anti-cancer proteins) that persisted for weeks.
They encourage time spent in nature as a healthy part of a cancer prevention plan, and I agree… if you can’t get outside in nature daily, these studies suggest that planning one weekend a month can still make a huge difference in not only your current health, but protecting your future health as well.
Cumulative anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits from one weekend a month in nature? That’s a pretty good deal. If you can strive to take monthly breaks from your daily grind in order to support your long tern health, you can reap the benefits for much longer than your weekend getaway lasted. Weeks of boosted health, even if you can’t live in nature…. turns out even just a venture outside every few weeks does a body good.
7. Decreased Germ Activity
Not only does time spent outside amount trees boost your immune system function, as discussed above, but the atmosphere outside actually kills germs more quickly than in indoor environments because sunlight is naturally germicidal.
This medical study (recently published in 2020 in the Journal of Infectious Disease) found that sunlight exposure decreased the survival of aerosolized influenza virus by 93% â€” decreasing viral lifespan from 32 min (with no sunlight exposure) to only 2.4 min in full sunlight. Wow. Thank goodness for the natural viricidal properties of sunlight!
This medical literature review, published in 2013 in the Journal of Hospital Infection) suggests that infections caught indoors is a major contributor to worldwide morbidity and mortality rates and urges medicine to consider optimizing sunlight when designing architecture for healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics.
And this awesome study, published 2009 in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that open air hospitals treating patients during the 1918 pandemic actually had lower mortality rates than closed air hospitals, citing fresh air, direct sunlight, and use of respiratory masks in substantially reduced deaths over indoor hospital facilities.
8. Boosted Longevity
All of these benefits â€” boosted Vit D, boosted immunity, decreased inflammation, protected brain function, better cancer recover and so much more â€” all culminates in the fact that people who spend time outdoors simply live longer.
It’s so important to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and a major medical study backs that up. Published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2016, researchers found that people who stayed indoors had a significantly shorter life span than those who spent time outside.
This study looked at almost 30,000 participants over a span of 20 years, tracking health outcomes and life span. Researchers found that participants who stayed indoors had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and pulmonary disease. And the results were dose-specific… meaning that the benefits of increased life expectancy went up directly in correlation to the amount of time outdoors.
Longer time outside = longer life span. That simple.
You can seek sunlight exposures in a way that honors social distancing such as:
- sitting on a porch, balcony or front door stoop every morning and every evening
- eating picnic lunches outside mid-day
- observing which of the windows in your home are sunny and at what time of the day there is a sunbeam and sitting in those precious light rays while drinking your morning coffee, your evening tea, while working on your computer like I am doing right now, or while reading a good book, etc… (the glass will stop the majority of UVB waves needed for making Vit D, so open the window if you can!)
- even going for a drive or sitting in your car even without driving it if you have your own car and it’s a sunny day â€” be sure to roll the windows down and enjoy!
Read more about the medical study showing that sunlight boosts lifespan right here.
Today, try to incorporate the healing benefits of being outside to help naturally boost and protect your health.
The benefits are astounding… from enjoying the viricidal properties of the sun, to boosting your activity level, to grounding your body, to boosting Vitamin D naturally, to naturally decreasing pain, stress, depression and anxiety… going outside is critical to our wellness.
And if you can’t get outside routinely, there are still benefits to looking out windows at nature, adding plants to your living space and supplementing with Vitamin D.
And remember, even one weekend a month is enough to significantly boost your health, so if you can’t get outside daily, plan a weekend a month immersed in a greenspace and enjoy long term benefits in cancer prevention, immune support, and even longevity!
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To your naturally resilient, astoundingly incredible human body!