Summer has Arrived – The Science of Fresh Air and SunshineLearn
posted July 2nd 2019
This month, Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com), shares with us the science behind the importance of getting our grandchildren out and about in the sun. We know it’s lots of fun but there’s also so many other benefits for our grandchildren. Take a read to find out more…
There is no substitute for fresh air or natural sunlight. Fresh air contains high levels of negative ions that can have a positive impact on brain function, mood and wellbeing. Sunlight provides vitamin D that our grandchildren need to grow strong, healthy bones and offers protection from several common disorders and diseases.
For children, spending a lot of time indoors every day in poorly ventilated rooms, where the positive ion count is high, can affect mental performance and lead to behavioural problems and even aggression. Lack of natural sunlight can reduce energy levels, affect mental ability and speed of thinking and make children more susceptible to infection.
On that basis, fresh air and natural sunlight are priority foods for the brain and body, but do your grandchildren get enough?
What are ions?
An atom that has one of its normal orbiting electrons removed is called a positive ion. An atom that has an extra electron added is called a negative ion. In this context, the terms ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ are reversed. Even more confusing is the fact that negative ions can have a positive effect on mood and behaviour, whereas positive ions can have a negative effect on human biochemistry.
Negative ions are created when energy from sunlight, radiation, moving air or water breaks a positive ion apart to forcibly remove an electron. When the displaced electron attaches itself to a nearby atom, it becomes a negative ion.
The normal negative ion count in fresh country air is about 4,000 negative ions per cubic centimetre. The highest concentrations of negative ions are found in mountain air and waterfalls, which may contain up to 100,000 negative ions per cubic centimetre. Sea air and natural forests are also heavily charged with negative ions, which is why people often feel invigorated, refreshed and energised by them. Electrical storms can also regenerate positively charged atmospheres by releasing trillions of negative ions into the air.
Negative ions are good for brain and overall health. They can relieve several symptoms from seasonal affective disorder (SAD or the ‘winter blues’), fatigue, stress and tension, to headaches, asthma, hayfever, hypertension, muscle pain, neuralgia, arteriosclerosis, cerebral apoplexy and cancer. Negative ions also promote the production of immunizing antibodies, which increase resistance to disease.
Negative ions regulate the production of serotonin inside the brain, thus promoting strong brain waves that increase mental performance, alertness, concentration, creative thinking and problem-solving ability. A few good reasons for getting out in the fresh air!
When children spend long periods of time indoors, where there is little ventilation, they may inhale pollen, fungal spores, dust, chemical fumes, bacteria, and infectious viral particles that reside on positively charged particles in the air. Negative ions draw positive ion particles together in clumps. When the clumps become too heavy to remain airborne, they drop to the floor where they settle as visible dust. This frees the air from potential irritants that can cause a variety of allergic reactions such as hayfever and asthma. However, children and babies who spend time on the floor may develop respiratory problems if the surface is not cleaned or vacuumed regularly.
Indoors, high levels of positive ions are found in places where TVs, computer monitors, electrical equipment and fluorescent lighting operate. Central heating and air-conditioning systems can draw negative ions out of the air and create an overload of positive ions. In poorly ventilated places such as classrooms, homes and offices, the negative ion count may be as little as 100 negative ions per cubic centimetre.
High levels of positive ions are also found in polluted areas, in places where humidity and temperature are high and where warm, dry winds blow. Positive ionisation also increases significantly before a storm, which may explain why animals become restless and why humans often feel exhilarated and excited. A full moon also increases the positive ion count, which is the reason why some people become more aggressive in their behaviour.
When the atmosphere has more positive ions per cubic centimetre than negative ions, the imbalance can lead to respiratory disorders. Children are especially susceptible to asthma attacks from positive ionisation. Babies also cry more when the negative ion count is depleted. Respiratory disorders, headaches and allergies may also be exacerbated by synthetic clothing, carpets, upholstery and even cellulose and silicone-based furniture finishes, which can produce a positive static charge. Natural fibres and wood carry little charge of either kind.
Another side benefit of getting fresh air is sunlight. Sunlight provides 95 per cent of the body’s vitamin D requirement. The rest can be obtained from oily fish, margarine, milk, eggs and vitamin supplements. However, taking vitamin D supplements for long periods of time can be harmful.
Vitamin D facilitates absorption of calcium, which helps to build strong bones and teeth. Babies and children need vitamin D for healthy bone growth and development. Inadequate levels of vitamin D are associated with rickets, a disease that affects the way bones grow and develop. Adults also need adequate amounts of the vitamin to enhance bone mineral density and to prevent osteoporosis, a disease of the bones that increases the risk of fracture. Vitamin D can reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and provide protection against thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Studies show that exposure to sunlight in childhood dramatically reduces the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system, in later life. Sunlight also helps to warm the body’s muscles, which eases stiffness and helps to reduce the pain caused by inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis; it is also good for skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis.
Fresh air is highly underrated. It brings more oxygen to the brain, muscles, tissues and cells, which in turn affects mental and physical performance. Getting plenty of clean, fresh air is the best way to keep your grandchild’s brain functioning at full capacity.
Everyone needs natural sunlight to stay healthy. In fact, the risk of illness increases without enough exposure to sunlight. Where there is little sunlight to disperse or kill infectious particles, it is hardly surprising that people succumb to micro-organisms that cause colds and influenza.
In places where fresh air is a premium, taking children to the country will give them the chance to breathe in negative ions, stay healthy and learn about life at the same time. In the winter months, when respiratory disorders are most prevalent, getting children out in the fresh air and sunlight can invigorate them, providing they are warmly dressed for the cold. Simply going outside for 15 minutes a day can improve every aspect of life from mood and energy levels to health and wellbeing.
About WOW World Group (www.wowworldgroup.com)
WOW World Group provides a diverse, exciting range of parent and child activity-based class experiences across the UK and overseas. Spanning seven different programmes, its adult classes are designed to equip parents with a variety of useful skills from first aid to preparing for life with a new baby. The fun-filled classes are designed to enhance early years learning and development while allowing parents to spend quality time with their child/children in a safe and established, nurturing environment led by qualified, knowledgeable class leaders.
WOW World Group is a founding member of the Children’s Activities Association having gained international recognition for its programmes, which include Baby Sensory, Toddler Sense, Mini Professors, Reading Fairy and Photo Sensory.