While we heard a lot of public health warnings in the past century about the dangers of too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun, the truth is that such exposure only accounts for 0.1% of the world’s disease burden, according to the report by the World Health Organization.
On the other hand, the same report states that a much higher rate of the world’s annual disease burden might be a result of too little exposure to UVR. There are multiple risks involved in spending the majority of your days indoors, from the most obvious Vitamin D deficiency, to lack of exercise resulting in weight issues, to even poor eyesight in children. Here are just a few examples of the dangers of not getting your regular dose of sunlight and activity that comes with spending time outside.
Lack of Vitamin D
Not getting enough exposure to sunlight can lead to Vitamin D deficiency, often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. This can result in impaired absorption of phosphorus and calcium by your body, leading to poor bone health, compromised metabolic functions and a number of other issues. Such deficiency can be the cause behind rickets disease, characterized by skeletal deformities. Low Vitamin D levels in the bloodstream are also associated with cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, asthma and even cancer.
While skin cancer is often linked to too much exposure to sun radiation, scientists say that other cancers can be associated with too little of sunlight exposure. A study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, showed that taking two to four times of the daily requirement of Vitamin D3 and calcium led to a lower incidence rate for all cancers, reduced by as much 50% to 77%. The study observed a group of post-menopausal women over the period of four years.
An increasing number of adults have poor eyesight these days, and scientists believe that not spending enough time outdoors as children is a major contributing factor to this. The journal Optometry and Vision Science published a series of studies on the causes of myopia, commonly known as short-sightedness.
Their conclusions indicate that the global increase in myopia instances can be partially attributed to the fact that children these days are growing up in environments where their eyes are not trained to see distant objects. In these crucial development stages of their eyesight, children are learning to focus only on nearby items, which they are limited to when spending the majority of their days indoors.
This currently leads to a 20% rate of short-sightedness among 12-year-olds in the U.S., and as much as 30% to 50% in the Asian metropolitan areas. The rate spikes even higher by the time young adults reach the age of 20.
Book: The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age
This book by author Richard Louv (who also authored Last Child in the Woods) urges us to change our vision of the future and reminds us that if we reconceive environmentalism and sustainability, we will evolve into a larger movement that will touch every part of society.
More (from Amazon):
This New Nature Movement taps into the restorative powers of the natural world to boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds. Supported by groundbreaking research, anecdotal evidence, and compelling personal stories, Louv offers renewed optimism while challenging us to rethink the way we live.
*Use the affiliate link above to see reviews on this book
Another book of interest: I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature by Jennifer Ward, Richard Louv and Susie Ghahremani
In his popular book The Nature Principle, Richard Louv talks about a host of other problems caused by the “nature deficit disorder,” that many people are experiencing these days in their fast-paced, technology-packed lives. He describes various adverse effects of not spending time outdoors, including obesity, heart disease, depression and anxiety, among others.
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