Page 124 - South Mississippi Living - March, 2023
P. 124

  Health Benefits of Spending Time Outside
Can you smell it? The fresh scent of pine trees in the air
on a warm evening. In the near distance, a small campfire
is roasting and the air is filled with its charred debris, reminding you of your childhood, when you’d laugh and play with friends and family. Even as a child, you could sense that being in the great outdoors was important, but it turns out it’s beneficial to your health.
Dr. Chris Fontimayor, a board-certified anesthesiologist
in Ocean Spring and outdoor enthusiast, shares some of
the unique health benefits that come along with connecting to our natural environment. He says, “One benefit is
direct exposure to sunlight. This can increase your body’s production of Vitamin D. This essential vitamin is important for keeping your bones strong and healthy. One of the most important and underrated health benefits of spending time in nature is improvement in mental health. Several studies have demonstrated that spending time outdoors can reduce stress levels and improve your mood.”
Not only can time outside help improve your mental
and physical health, it can also improve your sleep. Dr. Fontimayor says, “Being outdoors may have an influence
on the amount of time and quality of our sleep. Some studies have suggested that being outdoors can improve
our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. The potential mechanism is through the natural light and dark cycles of
the day. As we are exposed to more light, we decrease the production of melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone. When exposed to the dark, we increase the production of melatonin which helps with sleep.” Therefore, by spending time outdoors during the day and at night, we allow our bodies to stay aligned with their natural sleep cycles based on the sun's rise and fall, which helps us get more regular and deeper sleep.
We have always known that spending time outside was
good for us. Parents have been ushering their children away from screens and into the backyard for as long as we can remember. Now, with all the research available, we are able to better understand how the outdoors can improve our overall health and well-being.
124 | March 2023
  story by Luke Height | SOUTH MISSISSIPPI Living

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