How life’s simple pleasures can improve your well-being.

When was the last time you plucked a carrot from the fridge, grabbed an extra hat and scarf, and bounded out into the St. Albans winter to build a snowman, just for the fun of it?

If you’re a parent or grandparent, you may already be plugged into the many benefits simple snow play brings to the littles in your life. However, the benefits of trekking out into the snow and rolling up snowballs can be just as good for adults as it is for kids. In fact, giving yourself permission to head outdoors and play can benefit your health on multiple levels, keeping everything from depression to toothaches at bay.

Here are 5 benefits to building a snowman, or simply getting outside, that you can reap with each fresh snowfall this winter.

1. Uplift your mood (and protect your health too).

No matter how long you’ve called St. Albans home, you’ve likely felt the direct benefits of spending time outside and enjoying the stunning natural surroundings of the Green Mountain State. As health researchers look for non-clinical solutions to maintain human health and prevent disease, simply spending time in nature has gained scientific backing as the medicine most of us need.

Along with lowering stress and increasing mental clarity and creativity, spending time in nature reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, preterm labor, and premature death. And, whether you decide to spend time in nature alone or with a friend, your total well-being will benefit. While spending time alone in nature is linked to gratitude and focus, venturing out with a loved one or friend is an easy way to maintain social distancing while fostering a sense of purpose and connection.

2. Add joy to your life with play.

Whether you’re retired or in your early 20s, there is still a strong kernel of truth in the 17th century expression that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Of course, adult life is often demanding, which can make play seem like a pleasure only reserved for those who haven’t yet picked up a mortgage or a 401(k).

Though it may not seem worth prioritizing at first glance, play is actually essential for your overall health as you age. Along with lowering stress, regularly engaging in playful activities sharpens your mind, prevents cognitive decline, nurtures healthy communication and relationships, builds empathy, and fosters a sense of connection and community.

3. Expose yourself to immune-boosting bacteria.

The gut microbiome describes the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in your digestive tract and support many vital functions in the body, including heart health, cognition, digestion, and immune function. There are many steps you can take to support a healthy gut microbiome, such as eating cultured and fermented foods, taking a probiotic, eating a diverse selection of whole foods, and getting outside.

Like our gut microbiome, nature is teeming with a wide range of bacteria that can support your physical and mental well-being. Playing and exercising outside gives you the opportunity to breathe in these healthy bacteria, giving your bodies a natural health boost that can help strengthen your immune system and support psychological resilience and balance.

4. Soak up some vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for a healthy body and mental well-being. On the gut level, vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for strong, healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin D is also essential for mitigating inflammation, preventing muscle cramps, and bolstering your immune function. The role of vitamin D is so essential that insufficient levels are associated with serious health issues, including osteoporosis, muscle weakness, depression, and cancer.

Getting healthy amounts of sun exposure is the best way to give your vitamin D levels a lift, as the UVB rays in sunlight trigger the cholesterol in your skin cells to produce and synthesize vitamin D. While daylight and sunshine are in shorter supply during the Vermont winter, you can still soak up a dose of this life-sustaining vitamin by getting outside, especially midday, even if it’s cloudy. You can also add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet, like salmon and fortified cow or plant milk, and talk to your healthcare provider about adding supplements.

5. Strengthen your bones.

Your body is designed — and even loves — to be exposed to normal mechanical stresses, such as weight-bearing exercises. When exposed to these healthy stresses, your muscles and bones get the stimulation they need to maintain their strength and density. Even walking can help maintain your bone structure’s architecture and strength while bolstering your overall health, fitness, and balance. Of course, walking through the snow is generally more challenging than walking on a paved road, which can further enhance this simple activity’s overall benefits.

Like the positive stress of weight-bearing exercises and walking, chewing is essential for maintaining the health of your jawbones. Issues with your bite or missing one or more teeth can ultimately compromise the health of your jaw and teeth. A misaligned bite can place excess pressure on certain teeth, which can contribute to toothaches, cavities, jaw pain, or irreversible tooth damage that requires a crown to fix. Missing one or more teeth can dramatically reduce the amount of chewing force your jaw receives, causing your jawbones to “shrink” or resorb back into the body and causing a sunken appearance around your mouth and cheeks.

Take advantage of nature’s many health benefits.

Along with encouraging you to get outside and play, our dentists are committed to helping keep your smile and body healthy. To learn more about how Invisalign can correct bite issues, open your airway, and prevent tooth damage, or how dental implants can replace one or more missing teeth, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.