(ARA) - Some things we're supposed to do for our health may seem obviously difficult to accomplish: eating less fast food no matter how yummy it tastes, fitting an hour of vigorous exercise into every day, or giving up bad habits like smoking. You may think one bit of common health advice - to get more fresh air and sunshine - would be easy to follow.
The truth, however, is that our busy, technology-filled modern lives can make it difficult to fulfill our most basic needs for natural light and clean air. Many of us spend eight or more hours a day in an office where we are exposed to artificial light and recirculated air. Even at home, it can be difficult to maintain air and light quality.
The health benefits of cleaner air and natural light are well-documented. Fresh air often contains fewer health-damaging pollutants than the air found inside buildings. And natural light has been linked to increased levels of the hormone seratonin, which can make people feel happier.
Fortunately, you can take steps to increase the amount of fresh air and natural light that enters your living environment.
The need for fresher air
Indoor air pollution is a significant health concern, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA says research shows people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, making health risks from indoor pollution greater than risks from outdoor pollution.
Sources of indoor pollution include heating fuels like oil, gas, kerosene and wood, building materials, furniture, carpet, tobacco products, household cleaners, personal care products and even heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems if they have not been properly maintained and cleaned. Health effects can range from immediate cold-like symptoms and headaches to longer-term problems, according to the EPA.
Modern homes tend to be very air-tight, allowing indoor pollution to build up. Ventilation can help reduce the presence of these pollutants inside your house.
Have your home's HVAC system, including duct work, cleaned and maintained at least once a year. Systems that are functioning optimally will do a better job filtering contaminants from the air.
Take advantage of home improvements that can help improve air quality, such as installing new double-pane windows that are more energy efficient and easy to open and new window screens that will admit fresh air but keep out pests. You can also add function and decorating drama by adding Energy Star-qualified venting skylights that work with vertical windows to provide a natural chimney effect, passively venting moisture, fumes and potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.
Benefits of brightening your environment
Natural light offers a myriad of health benefits, including promoting the body's production of Vitamin D, and boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Lower serotonin levels have been associated with depression, a drop in physical energy, increased appetite and increased desire for sleep.
Relying on natural light to help illuminate your home can lower your energy bills - by reducing the need for artificial light - and boost your personal energy levels. Fortunately, you can do many things to increase the amount of natural light that enters your home, from simple steps such as keeping windows clean to adding additional sources of natural light, such as skylights.
"Skylights admit 30 percent more light than vertical windows in dormers, and provide the mood-boosting drama of a sky view that can't be achieved with vertical windows," says Ross Vandermark of Velux, manufacturers of the "No-Leak Skylight." "Skylights can increase your exposure to balanced and healthful natural light, provide ventilation, and preserve privacy without taking up valuable wall space that can be used for decorating or storage."
For more information on the benefits of natural light and skylight selection, or to locate a certified installer near you, call (800) 283-2831 or visit www.veluxusa.com. For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency visit www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.