Have fun in the sun to boost your health and wellbeing

19 July 2019

Children throwing a bucket of water over their fatherThe number of children doing an hour of exercise each day falls by nearly 40% between the ages of five and 12, eventually leading to one in four women and one in five men classed as physically inactive. By spending time outside in the sun, you can boost your health and wellbeing.

Inactivity: the facts

These, still relevant, statistics from previous reports from the Health Survey for England show a worrying trend of increased inactivity coming with age. This can affect our health by increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as affecting our emotional wellbeing as we get older.

A 2017 report by Public Health England and Disney which looked at the effects of physical activity on children’s emotional wellbeing found a correlation between happiness levels and activity. As children aged and became less active, their levels of happiness also declined.

Reasons to get outside

More and more people are living their lives indoors with many spending little time outside because they have few nearby, and easily accessible, nature and outdoor activity choices. But it’s also true that those who have the least access to nature and outside space also have the worst levels of physical health and mental wellbeing.

Summer is the perfect time for getting yourself (and encouraging the rest of the family to get) out in the sunshine and be active.

  • Sunshine boosts levels of serotonin (one of the body’s happy hormones) and treats Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  • It triggers the production of vitamin D which keeps bones healthy, reduces heart disease and cholesterol, lowers high blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and may help to prevent diabetes.
  • Sunshine can help improve your sleep as less melatonin is produced in the brain during summer. Melatonin tells your brain when to go to sleep, so you can stay up later and feel more awake during the day.
  • Basking in morning sunshine can help reduce body fat, the higher levels of serotonin also works to suppress the appetite which is why many people find they eat less in the summer.

For those that don’t have much greenery around them, perhaps a new approach may help you to get the same effect as a walk in a park. Looking for the wilderness that is on your doorstep goes a long way in helping your emotional wellbeing. Find a tree and watch the leaves as they flutter in the breeze. See if you can spot a bird, a caterpillar or other creature amongst the branches and focus on their movement. Discover the beauty in flowers, even some weeds in the cracks of buildings and pathways have pretty flowers on them. Look at what makes each flower you see individual. Start taking notice of the everyday wildlife that is around you, no matter how small. Then we need to start adding in a bit of movement too.

Walking can reduce anxiety and depression, walking in nature and focusing on the world around you can calm the mind giving you time to breathe, regroup and re-energise. Even just a few minutes during a lunch break at a local park or in any green space, can do your mental wellbeing a world of wonder.

Fitness doesn’t have to cost a lot

Any physical activity is better than none and can help to kick-start another of the happy hormones (endorphins), but achieving the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise is best for your overall health, wellbeing and reducing stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Among older people, physical activity can improve health, cognitive function and reduces the risk of falls due to mobility issues.

Various reports throughout the years have found that the lower a household’s income, the lower the levels of activity. But fitness doesn’t need to cost a lot.

Take up walking, ditch the car or public transport for short journeys and walk everywhere you can. Get into running, the Couch to 5K app is a great motivation tool to get you into and enjoy running. Avoid the lift, climb the stairs instead. Skipping brings a whole range of health improvements including agility and balance. Playing ball games or having a water fight is good fun as well as being great exercise for the whole family. Take up gardening. Mowing the lawn, weeding, digging, planting and repotting can all work up a real sweat.

One of the best forms of exercise for all-round health is swimming. Many local authorities that run swimming pools and sporting facilities have free or discounted sessions for children that can be found on their websites.

And remember, when out in the sunshine keep covered up with a good sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, and drink plenty of water.