Sun is shining and the kids are hopefully going outside. Summer can be a fun, busy time for kids to catch up on things that get put on the back burner during the school year. Days are longer with more sunshine and possibilities. It holds more positive aspects than many people understand. Learn about the benefits of sunshine for young people.
Power of the Sun
Our bodies are essentially dependent on the sun to function. Regular vitamin D production is essential to human growth and development, brain chemistry and circadian rhythms (sleep cycles). Today’s kids spend less time outdoors than ever before with the advent of technology such as television, tablets and computer games. Meals and leisure time are generally spent indoors with the average 8-18 year old spending approximately 7 hours per day in front of some type of screen.
Nearly 90% of the body’s vitamin D is produced when sunlight hits the skin. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the body as it helps metabolize and absorb calcium and other minerals. It influences proteins which trigger gene expression. Cell growth is modulated along with neuromuscular function, immune function and reduction of inflammation. Kids need vitamin D to develop properly. Significant deficiencies prenatally during the first few months of life can lead to rickets, a disease characterized by soft, weak bones and poor motor development. The brain structure and function can be altered and impaired without sufficient vitamin D.
Sunlight is necessary to regulate circadian rhythms or the internal clock which determines a sleep and wake cycle. Being active and awake at night increased chances of being eaten or falling off a cliff in prehistoric times. Modern amenities have led to a decreased risk of harm at night but can also lead to a significant disruption of circadian rhythms. Children are recommended to get approximately 9-13 hours per night of sleep. Sleep is a time when hormones and macronutrients go to work and develop bones, muscles and organs. The brain consolidates memories, processes emotions and produces important neurotransmitters in preparation for the day to come. Decreased sleep can affect attention, memory, academic performance and decision making.
When kids are outdoors, being sedentary is less of an option. Kids can move, walk, play basketball or go climbing. If kids are not active and using the environment for play, it can affect development. Playing can increase sensory integration and playing in dirt even improves the immune system. Going outside to read or eat snacks can be advantageous.
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