This past week saw the official start of spring – days are brighter, longer, and the temperature is slowly climbing (though for some of us, maybe a little too slowly?). Spring can bring a real boost to your health, here are some reasons why - along with a few tips to help you make the most of this season:
Spring fever – After a long, dark winter, brighter days and warmer weather can have a very positive impact on our mood. Studies show that people who spend more time outside in the springtime feel better, smarter, and even more open-minded and creative. The increase in daylight in the spring triggers a change in the amounts of hormones our brains produce. One such affected hormone, melatonin, influences our sleep cycles as well as mood changes. Studies show that the opposite effect is true as well – not taking time to be outside at this time of the year can make us feel trapped and depressed. So even if your time is limited, try to get outside – go for a walk at lunch or take the dog for a longer walk after work. (Suffer from seasonal allergies? Stay tuned for my blog on how nutrition can help to improve your condition.)
Fresh spring produce – Farmers’ markets are starting to open across the country, and with them, a bounty of fresh produce is becoming available, making eating healthy easier and more delicious. Peas, asparagus, kale, radicchio, and rhubarb are just a few of the fresh foods that reach their peak during spring. Still sluggish after winter? Join the Active Nutrition community to receive recipes to help you re-set your diet.
More vitamin D – It can be difficult to meet our needs of immune-boosting vitamin D in the winter. The return of spring (and longer days, more sunshine!) allows us to more easily soak up what our body needs. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced on your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. It helps your body to absorb calcium, and works with calcium to help you to maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also helps your muscles, nerves and immune system work properly. According to recent studies, vitamin D may be linked to lowering the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Spring cleaning – Ok, so spring cleaning itself may not be something that most of us look forward to. But did you know that it has been shown to improve health? Spring cleaning helps to cut down on dust mites, common house dust, mold and other indoor asthma and allergy triggers. It is also a great way to be active. On average, a 150-lb. person doing light cleaning for 30 minutes burns approximately 85 calories, or about 150 calories dong heavy cleaning. With a little creativity, you can also mix in lunges, squats, and other exercises into your cleaning routine to improve the impact of your workout. Research shows that an organized home helps us be organized in other ways as well, such as taking time to plan meals and eating more healthily.
Outdoor exercise – Spring is the perfect time to enjoy outdoor exercise. Gone are the c-o-l-d days of winter, and the summer heat hasn’t set in yet. Longer days (there is a benefit to daylight savings!) and moderate temperatures are perfect reasons to ditch the gym and take your workout outside.
Gardening – Gardening is another great way to be active outdoors. As well as providing fresh fruit and vegetables for your salads and beautiful flowers for your home, gardening offers a variety of other health benefits. Outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) while pursuing a fun hobby (but don’t forget the sunscreen, UV levels can be high even in the spring). Gardening has been shown to help improve mood, reduce stress, and improve mental health. In one particular study, researchers compared outdoor gardening to indoor reading for stress relief. Gardening won hands-down by significantly reducing cortisol levels and improving mood.
More time with friends and family - If you are someone who prefers to just hibernate in the winter, then the thought of patios and sunshine may be the temptation that you need to get outside. Say goodbye to cabin fever and enjoy being outside with your friends or family!
Sources: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-spring-fever-is-a-real-phenomenon/; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000385.htm; https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-new-you/201504/the-psychology-spring-cleaning; http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/08/why.gardening.good/index.html; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16411871