I’m a fresh air fanatic. My window at work is open pretty much all year long, even during the winter. I blame it on my Mom. When we were growing up, she was constantly telling us to “go outside and do…” something:
• Go outside and play.
• Go outside and rake the leaves.
• Go outside and mow the lawn.
• Go outside and pick up the apples (we had two trees in our backyard).
• Go outside and shovel the snow.
• Go outside and “blow the stink off you.”
It’s no wonder I still go outside at every opportunity to center myself. Mom, you were right. We should spend time out-of-doors every day. Every system in our body is dependent on oxygen, and fresh air is the best way to get it. Fresh air and sunshine are among the oldest, health-supporting concepts in medicine. They are essentially free antibiotics. During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale slashed hospital death rates with a host of hygiene improvements – including throwing open the windows. Until she came along, soldiers were more likely to die from “hospital” than they were from their battle wounds.
Today, despite a greater emphasis on cleanliness and sterile environments, patients still catch dangerous infections in hospitals. In the USA alone, 100,000 people a year die from hospital infections. In the 1970s, when energy conservation became a big issue, open windows that circulated fresh air were scuttled in favor of economical heating and cooling. Everything was sealed up, and thus began the era of “sick building syndrome.” Unfortunately, filtered air is dangerous because it circulates pathogens to an unnatural, dangerous degree. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is twice as polluted as outdoor air. What’s even scarier? Americans from the age of 12 and up spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.
What Does Science Say?
From Penn State: “The ultraviolet component of sunlight is the main reason microbes die in outdoor air. The die-off rate in the outdoors varies from one pathogen to another, but can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes for a 90-99% kill of viruses or contagious bacteria.”
Is There A Fresh Air and Sunlight Factor?
Scientists are now acknowledging a connection between light and health. They’ve found that natural light has a very significant effect on our immune system. Light is currently used to treat various diseases of the blood and skin, and also for curing certain kinds of depression and nervous disorders. When sunlight shines on skin, the nerve endings absorb energy and send it throughout the entire body. A sensible amount of sun exposure nourishes and energizes the human body.
It pays to learn from our heroes of the past. The World Health Organization recently published a report urging all healthcare settings to start using natural ventilation as much as possible, referencing Florence Nightingale. In Mumbai, India, an old-style sanatorium was refitted as a clinic with high ceilings and open porches for people with drug-resistant TB. Hospitals are finding a higher percentage of recovery rates of patients put in rooms that feature abundant sunlight; especially those that allow fresh air to circulate.
It’s finally nice here, weather-wise, in Ohio! Take advantage of the warmer temperatures, abundant sunshine, and longer hours of daylight to get some fresh air and sunshine. Your body will thank you!
Written by:Donna Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA, email@example.com
Reviewed by:Cheryl Barber Spires, NW Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org