'Treadmills hold back happiness' - Women's Running

‘Treadmills hold back happiness’

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  May 15, 2014

Treadmills make you unhappy

‘Treadmills hold back happiness’

Hurray the summer is nearly upon us! Exposure to the sun’s rays is crucial to your health and wellbeing, keeping your vitamin D and feel-good serotonin levels topped up as well as prompting your body to produce a blood-pressure lowering chemical called nitric oxide.

D is for…

Nicknamed the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is crucial for running performance and health, but levels can plummet over winter. ‘It is becoming increasingly evident that vitamin D is crucial for human health, for example, as far as runners are concerned, it is important for optimum muscle function,’ says Dr Adrian Martineau, from London’s Queen Mary University, which is hosting a vitamin D conference this spring.

In the summer, just ten minutes in the sun between 11am and 3pm is enough for most people to make plenty of vitamin D. When the days grow shorter, the angle of the sun reduces the power of the UVB rays and makes it harder to manufacture the vitamin in our bodies.

Health benefits

Daylight hits the optic nerve and travels through neural pathways to your brain to produce the body’s natural feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Winter daylight, even if it’s weak and there’s cloud cover, is still far better than indoor light at triggering their release.

A report in Harvard Health Letter says that a lack of light ‘may disrupt brain processes influenced by serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that play a role in mood.’

Lack of light can also disrupt your biological clock, making you feel tired or awake at the wrong times, says the letter. Another study from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, in Japan, found that when women were exposed to just a 30-minute burst of natural light their mood improved.

Vitamin D for runners

A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine estimated that one billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D and this is a particular problem for athletes of all ages because ‘vitamin D plays a significant role in bone health, immune function and physical performance. In the deficient state, the athlete may be at an increased risk for potential problems such as stress fractures, respiratory infections, and muscle injuries.’

Another study in Molecular Aspects of Medicine found that vitamin D can increase muscle strength and fast-twitch muscle. Meanwhile, the Australian Institute of Sport says that evidence is emerging that supplementing vitamin D in athletes who have below optimal levels may boost their athletic performance, especially their strength, power, reaction time and balance.

Make the most of the sun

  • Avoid sunglasses in winter – let the sun’s rays hit your optic nerve to boost serotonin production. When the sun isn’t strong enough to make vitamin D, just 30 minutes of natural light will still help boost your mood.
  • Let as much of your skin show as you comfortably can on days where the sun is shining brightly, especially from when the sun grows stronger in late March and April. Dark-toned skins may not reap any benefit until the sun grows much stronger.
  • Take a daily vitamin D supplement and eat vitamin D-rich food, such as oily fish, to keep levels topped up.
  • Stay out as long as you can.
  • Aim to run at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky and light is brightest.
  • Watch forward weather forecasts to make sure you run when the weather will be good. Keep your schedule flexible, so you can go for a run when the sun unexpectedly appears.

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Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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