It doesn't take a lot of work to get 4 core actions going for the immune system.
Stepping outside can be one of the best ways to address optimal immune function - and it's free.
Outdoors gives us 4 big contributions.
- We need sunlight on our skin for our bodies to activate and metabolise vitamin D.
Why do we need Vitamin D? Because it's needed for immune function and bone metabolism.
Studies show worse experiences and slower recovery from infections where vitamin D status is low - and when you're sick, the immune system working at full bore, you're churning through more than usual as well.
In countries such as NZ and Australia, with the highest rates of melanoma in the world, sunlight started to be seen as dangerous, which made a lot of people decide it's all just too hard.
And yes, there can be a fine line between therapeutic and skin damage for some.
How much is safe? In very general terms, 10-20 mins per day. Also in general terms, the lower the sun is in the sky, the less effect it has - geographically as well as seasonally.
And also, since nature is innately intelligent, the less melanin in your skin, the faster the conversion - humans evolving in Scotland where the sun was seldom seen needed to suck every scrap out of brief appearances.
Equally, such people have skin that does not do well with sun exposure generally.
2. Outdoors also - hopefully - exposes us to nature.
There's absolutely screeds of research now about how exposure to green growing things help humans:
It improves mood, measurably, and our ability to deal with stress.
Anxiety decreases, even if temporarily,but the more exposure is repeated, the better the result.
The other side of anxiety -Depression - can be lifted as well.
It even normalises blood pressure, although since this is often affected by the above, that's not exactly surprising.
How does all of this help immune function?
Dealing with these things puts a burden on us, and limits capacity for wellness.
The body shunts resources to stress pathways and de-prioritises anything to do with maintenance and development.
So go green.
3. Outdoors is also a source of movement, which supports healthy immune function by supporting lymph movement, which means pathogens can be processed efficiently.
It also benefits mood, helps with bone health - where muscles put stress on bone, the bone strengthens - and cognition.Yes, through movement improving blood flow, the brain can actually function better.
Check out the Walkingblog for more detail here.
4. Finally, if you're outdoors, there's a chance of social interaction. I know, I know, double edged sword here.
But humans are social beings, and there's also research to back up the healthiness of-some- interactions.
As opposed to social media, which we all understand is addictive and not healthy but mm-mm, tastes so good.
Being outside, waving to neighbours, smiling at people in the park (choosing carefully of course) or walking with people we know, helps us feel safe, and part of a community. Which in turn, lets the body focus on things such as immune function instead of the stress that a sense of isolation can create.
So 10 - 20 minutes outdoors every day can do serious work for you.
Is it going to fix everything and make you super-healthy? No, but it's going to affect your baseline.