Selma Holden discusses the health benefits of being outdoors
We could all use a breath of fresh air these days. Getting outside, at a time when many of us feel isolated is not only good for our mental health, but also for our physical well-being.
While the state’s Stay Healthy at Home mandate remains in effect, outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, or biking are deemed essential personal activities, as long as we keep our social distance from each other.
“There's something within our internal radar that says I feel better when I'm outside, I feel better when I have fresh air, I love the smell of the woods or the ocean or wherever you are,” explained Selma Holden, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., assistant clinical professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Holden says there is research that shows getting outside is good for our physical health.
“There are measurable things such as vitamin D from sunlight hitting our skin,” she said. “There is this converging attitude within the medical and the holistic health communities that being outside just for the sunshine exposure is very important for our health.”
Sunlight also helps us fight off viruses.
“Viruses don't like UV light, and therefore being outside is helpful because the virus can't last as long if it's hit by sunlight,” Holden stated.
When we get outside we also tend to move and get a lot more exercise than we do inside.
“There are epidemiologists who have shown that just moving outside, where you have more space, has a variety of immunological benefits,” Holden commented. “The immune system, our body's ability to keep disease at bay, fights off foreign pathogens and helps us stay healthy. There is also stress mitigation, which is connected to our immunologic system.”
While some of the state’s public lands and beaches are shutdown because of overuse and crowding, the vast majority remain open. Holden says it is important for people to take advantage of opportunities to get outdoors.
“I'm interested in trying to help connect people to the wonderful wealth of nature outside and the health benefits it has,” she said. “We have this wonderful gift of natural resources all around us. In some ways we're really fortunate.”
With warmer weather approaching in Maine, state officials say they want everyone to get outside during this challenging time, while heeding all COVID-19 warnings and mandates.