Your Mother Was Right: Go Outside and Play

go_outside_and_playMost of us – especially if we grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s – heard this exhortation from our mother on a regular basis: Go outside and play!

Four words packed with almost infinite wisdom.

And yet many of us rarely or never do so, not even on the longest days of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere are now here for our nourishment!

A true story, although admittedly we’re talking about an extreme case: Somehow last week our teenager managed (and somehow we let him) avoid almost all direct exposure to the sun’s rays for a 24-hour period, except for 20 minutes sitting outside during lunch. He did leave the house to watch a soccer game at a sports bar in the late afternoon, but direct outdoor exposure consisted of 5 seconds from house to car, and another five seconds from car to restaurant and vice versa.

Sitting near a window in your home or office doesn’t count as direct exposure to the sun’s rays, no matter how bright the light coming in. Nor does driving. In both cases, the glass windows filter out the parts of the visible spectrum that have health-promoting effects.

Here are just some of the benefits of direct exposure to the sun’s rays:
– Increased Vitamin D production by your body (i.e. endogenous production; highly effective), resulting in greater immunity to illness and improved skin health.
– Stimulation of the pineal gland, resulting in better quality sleep, in turn resulting in almost every conceivable health benefit, including greater focus, self-control and higher motivation for positive behavior (i.e. the triggering of a virtuous cycle of positive actions, leading to greater health, in turn leading to increase energy to carry out positive actions, and so on).
– Stimulation of serotonin production, which improves overall mood.

Of course it’s always possible to get too much of a good thing. Direct exposure to the sun’s rays – unscreened by sunglasses and skin lotions — needs to be in small doses. For some highly sensitive skin types and for people who have had little exposure so far this year, the right, healthy amount of time may be as little as a minute or two for the first few days. Build up steadily but very slowly.

The second part of the exhortation is “Play!” I’ll go into more detail in a post in the near future. But most of us understand intuitively that moving our bodies, stretching, reaching, kneeling, skipping, jumping result in improved over-all wellness. Playing games – both structured and unstructured – stimulates creativity, reduces stress and restores optimism.

Writing by Mark Sisson: 15 Concrete Ways to Play, and The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness

Topics: Outside play, holistic health, anti-depression, @Mark_Sisson @angelocoppola @bfeld