Air, air, it's everywhere, yet air sometimes gets a bad rap. Air has been erroneously passed on by word of mouth as the cause of every joint pain, cold, flu and seasonal ailment known to man. Yet, there's no concrete proof that the March winds are cause of any illness or malady. In fact, the winds, as they're called, are no more the cause of illness than wearing damp clothes or leaving your house in the morning with a wet head. Science proves this is just an old wives tale.
We take water baths and sunbaths, but a little known fact is an air bath can aid in healing a cold, the flu or pneumonia. When we breathe in fresh air, especially if we're surrounded by trees, we breathe in something called phytoncides. Phytoncides are airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides are known to have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities which help plants fight off disease. In the same way, when humans breathe in phythoncides, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a white blood cell known as natural killer cells or NK. Research shows these NK cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Impressively, Japanese researchers continue exploring whether forest emersion can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
Today with more modern and confined working and living, forced air hurts the quality of the indoor air we breathe. Air-tight energy-efficient doors and windows contribute to what is known as stale air. According to the American Lung Association, poor indoor air quality or stale air contributes to the development of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases such as asthma.
Opened windows are a natural healer's best kept secret. If you can't get outdoors for long periods of time during the day, take advantage of the night air by sleeping with a warm blanket and open windows no matter the season. Of course night air isn't any different than day air except if you happen to live near the ocean or among plenty of trees. Night hair is 'cleaned' by the ocean during the night according to new research, and trees have long been known to cleanse the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and air pollutants while producing oxygen.
The babies of Stockholm, are another testament to the benefits of breathing plenty of fresh air. Exposure to fresh air, whether in the summer months or the depths of winter, has been proven to prevent coughs and colds in these children.
Oh, and the weight loss...
Another recent study confirms that sleeping in colder rooms can actually help your weight -- first by lowering your body temperature so you fall asleep quicker, then by allowing your body to release more of the natural hormone, melatonin. According to studies melatonin improves weight control by increasing "beige" fat, a heat-generating type of fat that helps the body burn calories.
Just the smell of fresh air can also reduce stress and produce happiness according to research, but don't take my word for it, go ahead and open a damn window!