Get sunshine and fresh air while sheltering in place

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Being cooped up in your house during the COVID-19 outbreak can be stressful, whether you’re working from home, homeschooling your children or just monitoring what’s happening on the Internet.

Social distancing and sheltering in place aren’t the same as quarantining, and getting outside for a breath of fresh air is permissible behavior. We’ve all experienced some form of going “stir crazy.” A brisk walk with a loved one, a pet or even by yourself is a good exercise for your mental well-being.

Getting outside offers more than mental benefits, though. Direct sunlight is our bodies’ main source of Vitamin D, which has been known to help fight off osteoporosis, cancer and depression. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can help increase your levels of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is often low in Ohio residents, as we have so many cloudy days. Taking advantage of sunlight can help ease muscle aches and cramps, strengthen our bones and improve our moods.

Psychological studies link time spent out in fresh air and sunshine to a greater sense of vitality.

Not only does being outside benefit you with more energy throughout the day, but vitality helps our bodies become more resilient to physical illness.

Spending time in the sun also can help you recover faster from an illness or injury. Studies show that those exposed to more natural light have quicker recoveries and experience less pain than those exposed to artificial light.

It’s always a good idea to get up, get out and take regular mental and physical breaks. So, go for a walk, work in the yard or read a book outside. You’ll be keeping your social distance, but you won’t be isolating yourself.

Exercise in general is great for helping with long-term conditions such as diabetes, joint fatigue or other chronic pain. When we’re outdoors, we’re more likely to engage in physical activities than when we’re stuck indoors.

And don’t use the excuse that your gym is closed during this time. Walking, cycling and other recreational activities work to keep us at optimal physical health. It’s also really important for our children to get outside, to release pent-up energy, if nothing else.

Going outside can get your brain moving, too. Even if you simply sit outside or take a short stroll, the sensory stimulation that nature provides eliminates boredom.

We have a natural connection to living things. When we’re out in nature, it’s easy to feel like we belong in our environment and foster a sunny disposition.

Whitney Christian is a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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