Or rather, lights, eyes, action!! With the weather starting to improve, are you looking forward to getting outside more? Have you ever thought about how important it is for our eyes and brain to be outdoors, even in winter? Or what about walking? Does it seem too low impact to really make a difference in the health of our body and mind?
Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest. Many of us know that getting sunshine on our skin is important to get Vitamin D. But did you know it’s more than just Vitamin D? Some of the latest research shows that sun on our skin and into our eyes may have multiple effects. It can affect our circadian rhythms (which is important for our sleep/wake cycles), our immune system (can help reduce inflammation), and our overall mental health. While we should be sensible with our sun exposure, we need to spend a little bit of time in the sun without sunscreen for our bodies to manufacture vitamin D. Can we spend 20-25 minutes outside?
I mentioned the eyes - what about them you may ask? The eyes are particularly cool because they are part of our central nervous system. Most of us know about our brain and spinal cord forming our central nervous system. But our eyes are part of it too! Our optic nerve goes directly to our brain - an area called the visual cortex. And it turns out walking, along with daylight, is also good for our eyes. When we get outside for a walk, we move past objects, as opposed to walking on a treadmill. This is called self-generated optic flow- it’s when we use our bodies to move, like when we walk or use a bike. The visual images pass us by and this is good for our visual system and the parts of our brain that regulate mood.
And let’s not forget our bodies! Walking truly is one of the best things we can do. When our feet hit the ground and our nerves sense that pressure, walking produces larger pressure waves in the body that significantly increase blood flow to the brain. How cool is that? (Watch for an upcoming blog about feet and footwear). It’s cheap and easy to go out for a walk- even if it’s just 10 minutes. If we can get out longer, that’s great. But don’t think that if you can’t commit to a 30 or 45 minute walk, there’s no point in going out! If you can do one or two 10 minute walks a day, you will notice a difference in your body and brain.
The bottom line?? Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, go outside for a walk! Your body, brain, and eyes will thank you!
If you would like more information and are interested in a well researched, scientific podcast, check out hubermanlab.com. He discusses topics like Improve Your Eyesight, Using Light to Control Brain State, Brain Performance, Immune System Enhancement, along with many other subjects.