You’ve probably heard the term “cabin fever” at some point. While this is usually a slang term that’s used to describe someone’s frustration with being cooped up inside for days at a time, there are some devastating physical and mental health consequences. Here are some of the biggest reasons to make sure you aren’t staying inside all day.
Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Human bodies need vitamin D for our physical and mental health. In fact, our bodies have evolved to get the vitamin D they need by manufacturing it from UVB rays directly from the sun. While there are foods that contain vitamin D our bodies can use – including foods with supplemental vitamin D, such as whole milk – it’s only found in very, very small amounts and is not enough to keep us healthy. Vitamin D plays a role in several bodily processes, too.
- Calcium absorption – You need calcium for healthy bones and teeth, but your body can’t absorb dietary calcium properly without vitamin D. That’s why whole milk is often fortified with vitamin D; it improves the amount of calcium your body can absorb from each serving.
- Immunity – Vitamin D is crucial for your body’s immune system. It’s necessary for creating the white blood cells your body uses to fight viral, bacterial, fungal, and even parasitic infections.
- Neuromuscular system – Studies have shown that vitamin D is important to the overall health of the neuromuscular system. Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiencies may be to blame for certain types of epilepsy, muscle weakness, fatigue, and even difficulties in forming cohesive thoughts.
- Depression – Numerous studies have shown the effects that vitamin D deficiency can have on your mental health, as well. Staying inside all day can lead to depression, and it can even worsen the symptoms of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is characterized by depression during certain seasons of the year.
Making Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D
According to the Vitamin D Council, you should be getting at least 5,000IU of vitamin D daily. While this may seem like quite a bit, it doesn’t take long to get what you need directly from the sun. In fact, you can get 10,000 to 25,000IU in less time than it takes your unprotected skin to burn. In short, as little as 30 minutes in the sun each day for fair-skinned people and up to an hour in the sun for those with darker skin is sufficient. Even on days when you feel like staying inside all day, it’s important to get out and get some sun.
Some other factors to consider:
- The time of year can influence the amount of sunlight that makes it to your skin. The summer sun is much stronger than the winter sun, so you’ll be able to produce more vitamin D more quickly during the summer months.
- It’s better to expose larger areas of your skin to the sun than smaller areas. For example, exposing your entire back to the sun will allow for better results than simply exposing your arms and hands.
- The older you get, the more sun you’ll need to produce the same results.
- The higher above sea level you are, the more UVB your skin can absorb.
Nature Keeps the Blues at Bay
If you start to feel down, you may want to take some time to think about your recent lifestyle. Have you been staying inside all day? If so, your blues may be due to a lack of nature. At the University of Glasgow in Scotland, researchers looked at people who worked out daily, and they wanted to discover whether Working Out at home or outside made a difference in their overall wellbeing. They found that people who went outside to walk, run, or ride a bike were far less likely to develop Depression than those who worked out at the gym or at home, and they attributed this to not only the extra dose of vitamin D, but also to the change of scenery.
Another study published in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience in 2013 showed that exposure to sunshine may also increase the body’s ability to naturally manufacture serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that is thought to directly affect mood. Researchers reviewed several studies and found that individuals who regularly exposed themselves to sunlight rather than staying inside all day had less depression and Anxiety. They also had fewer incidences of other types of mental disorders, including bipolar depression and SAD.
What about Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a real threat, and it’s one you should take very seriously. An article published by the Skin Care Foundation by dermatologist Anne Marie McNeill and Erin Wesner clarified a few things about the importance of getting your daily sun safely. While it’s very true that high-SPF sunscreens are designed to block both UVA and UVB rays (the latter of which is responsible for your body’s production of vitamin D), studies seem to indicate that those who spend time in the sun each day still get all the vitamin D they need, even when using clinically-prescribed SPF15 sunscreen.
One such study, published in the Archives of Dermatology in 1995, looked at a large sampling of the Australian population who spent time outside wearing sunscreen. They found that the sunscreen did not alter or affect the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. The reasons for this are still unknown, but the research seems to suggest that some UVB rays still penetrate the skin, even when using sunscreen. Another study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 1998, showed that sunscreen use didn’t decrease vitamin D levels enough to be detectable through standard thyroid or Metabolic marker testing.
Staying inside all day may seem unavoidable at times, but it’s worth your time to find a way to spend at least half an hour a day outside. Whether you choose to use this time to do some yardwork, read a book in the sun, or simply take a stroll around the neighborhood, your body and your mind will thank you for it.