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Spring and summer mean the return to warmer weather and increased sunlight, resulting in many spending more time outdoors. There are health benefits associated with the increase in temperature and sunlight. After a dark, cold winter for many, the transition to warmer, longer days can be just what the doctor ordered.
Here are three ways warmer weather can benefit your health.
1. Warm Air Can Positively Affect Your Mood, Exercise Regimen
"Exercise can strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and blood pressure reactions to stress," said Dr. Robert Matchock, associate professor of psychology at Penn State University's Altoona Campus. "Exercise can also increase the production of serotonin and endorphins which are associated with mood, and enhance cognitive abilities, such as memory."
Mindy Solkin is a professional running coach in New York City with 22 years of coaching experience and the founder of The Running Center, a training studio solely for runners. During the spring and summer, Solkin said running has a "whole different feel" compared to winter.
"You're bottled up all winter, sometimes on a treadmill, sometimes not at all and you can't get outside because of the cold, the snow and the dark," Solkin said. "There's a whole different feel."
She notices that her clients tend to be more upbeat because they can run outdoors without having to wear lots of layers of clothing, as is the case during the winter. Unlike the winter months when many typically just want to complete their run and get home, she notices a lot more socialization among her group of clients when it's warmer out.
As Solkin notices her client's change in attitude, according to Psychiatrist and Wellness Coach Dr. Gaby Cora, exposure to natural light cannot only keep you alert but it can also help put you in a better mood. "It will enhance your wish of doing some more activities, " Cora said.
Cora said she thinks that the warmer weather and having more light may enhance social activities. While certain activities may not always be positive, they may enhance relationships and prevent isolation.
Weather may also induce the affect of classical conditioning, in which people associate warmer weather with pleasurable activities, such as swimming, picnics or playing sports, according to Matchock.
An increase in the amount of sunlight is particularly beneficial for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a type of depression that occurs during the transition between seasons, especially fall into winter.
It is common for depression symptoms to improve in the spring because of the increase in the amount of daylight, Matchock said.
2. Exposure to Light Can Boost Alertness, Sleep Cycle
Matchock said one benefit associated with the warmer weather of the spring is the amount of available daylight, which is often referred to as a photoperiod. In the summer, there are long-day photoperiods and in the winter, short-day photoperiods.
"Light exposure can even improve certain types of insomnia and increase mental alertness," Matchock said.
Bright light during the early morning hours can help reset the human body's circadian clocks, essentially making people fall asleep better in the evening. The circadian clocks "regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day," according to the National Sleep Foundation.
When you're busier during the day, it makes it easier to sleep better as well, Cora said.
"It makes it a lot easier to start with a good sleep cycle by just waking up with the sunlight and not just go through endless hours of artificial light all day long," she said.
3. Increased Vitamin D Intake May Aid Bone Health, Lower Disease Risk
Being outside more in the spring and summer means getting additional doses of Vitamin D from being exposed to the natural sunlight. Vitamin D is vital for building strong bones in the human body.
Matchock said that although causality has yet to be demonstrated, there are some indications that those with high amounts of Vitamin D seem to have a lower risk for diseases such as hypertension and depression as well as breast, colon or prostate cancer.
Of course, too much exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can be a detriment to one's health, with the primary threat being skin cancer, the number one type of cancer in the United States. One of the best ways to prevent the risk is to apply sunscreen adequately and wear protective clothing when outdoors for prolonged periods.
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