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Why Sunshine and Outdoor Activity Is Vital in RECOvery

It’s summertime again! With the world slowly reopening, this summer will be a turning point for many to find comfort in the outdoors. As it turns out, outdoor activity is a vital part of overall health and successful recovery. According to a study published in BMJ Open, just being outside can help improve mental health, cardiovascular health, sleep patterns, and much more. 

The Many Benefits of Outdoor Activity

This group of scientists, who studied the effect of the outdoors on human health, called their project PHENOTYPE, or the Positive Health Effects of the Natural Outdoor environment in Typical Populations in different regions in Europe. The PHENOTYPE project is an ongoing study created to test these positive effects over time.  

The PHENOTYPE project has already made many significant findings that show how outdoor activity improves human health. Some of the proven benefits include:

  • Longer life span. Outdoor activity or increased time outdoors leads to longer life spans. Those who go outside regularly showed longevity, while those who didn’t show little to no change. 
  • Lowered stress. Spending time outdoors and being in the present moment has proven to lower stress levels or help mitigate a stressful time. 
  • Therapeutic effects. Much like stress levels, being outdoors is therapeutic for those experiencing heightened negative emotions or mental health issues. 
  • Improved mental health. Study participants showed improved mental health and overall wellness throughout the study, possibly due to the lowered stress and therapeutic properties of nature. 
  • Improved sleep. More time outside has proven to improve sleep patterns, helping you sleep better at night. 
  • Cardiovascular health. Spending time outside has also been linked to improved cardiovascular health for a number of reasons, most likely coupled with reduced stress and the opportunity for moderate outdoor exercise like walking. 
  • Faster recovery from illness. Time spent outdoors can also help those who are recovering from illness, reducing their symptoms and helping them heal faster. 
  • Better social health. Time outdoors is often linked to social health, as many gather outdoors to spend time together, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. From playing in a park to going on a run with friends, the outdoors offer many social opportunities. 

The Benefits of Sun Exposure

The sun itself also carries significant health benefits. Research published by Dermatology Practical & Conceptual confirms that Vitamin D from sun exposure is beneficial in treating specific skin disorders and building strong and healthy bones. Sun exposure provides many other benefits as well.

  • Bone and teeth health: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which keeps your bones and teeth strong. 
  • Nitric oxide in the body: The sun has been a primary source of light and life since prehistoric times, and we are quite dependent on it. Chemically, our brains and bodies crave and need the sun for other protective reasons. Sunlight increases the activity of nitric oxide in our body, which affects blood pressure (often lowering it, or at least protecting blood pressure from rising). This rise in nitric oxide activity caused by the sun is also credited for reducing our chances of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
  • More sun, more happiness: Sunlight boosts melatonin and serotonin production in the brain, increasing our feelings of happiness, ease, and comfort.
  • Cardiac health and sunlight: Sunlight can help regulate cardiac rhythms in some cases. 
  • Arthritis and sunlight: Sunlight has been proven to halt or lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Neurological diseases: Because of vitamin D, sunlight can help slow the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and dementia. 

Although the benefits of sunlight seem endless, it is important to use caution when you are in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Sunburn, hyperthermia, and skin cancer are all serious risks to consider. To protect yourself from the negative effects of sun exposure while still reaping the benefits, be sure to:

  • Wear sunscreen that is 30 SPF or higher, regardless of skin tone 
  • Avoid outdoor activity during the sunniest hours, opting for early morning or evening instead
  • Wear hats, sunglasses, and clothing that help protect you from the sun as you enjoy your time outdoors

Relaxing Outdoors in Recovery

For those in recovery, spending time outdoors is a great way to relax and feel grounded in your sobriety. With all the benefits listed above, outdoor activity can also be great for your mental health in sobriety. Find a nice, quiet green space to relax and reflect on all your successes up to today. If you’re looking for sunlight, maybe try a nearby park or an open field. If you want to be outdoors without extra sun exposure, a wooded area may be right for you. Wherever and however you can get outdoors this summer.

Spending time outdoors this summer can be a great way to reap nature’s benefits for your mind and body. Finding ways to stay active outdoors is great for your physical health as well as your mental health. As you work on your recovery this summer, if you need any help or support, contact RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, our professional staff and experienced alumni can guide you through your strategies for sobriety this summer. We offer treatment that is catered specifically to you and your needs. Our many therapies include Adventure Therapy to get you outdoors and moving through equine therapy, rope courses, calming hikes, and more. We also participate in competitive sports, community service projects, and healing walks in nature. At RECO Intensive, we know how important your sobriety is for your health, safety, and future. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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