Sun those Blues Away
Being a scientist, parent, and a teacher, I’m always trying to figure out what makes people tick, biologically. Given our recent dreary weather, and the sleepiness that seems to come with it, amongst Californians, I have concluded that Vitamin D may be to blame. In Oregon, where I’m from, rain is far more frequent, so Oregonians tend to welcome the rain and the gorgeous flora that come with it. Drive through much of Oregon, and you’ll know what I mean, where green comes in varying hues, and moss comes in varying loftiness. Of course, plenty of Oregonians battle with depression when the heavy winter weather commences, leading us back to Vitamin D.
The easiest way to increase your Vitamin D levels is not to eat a certain food or supplement, but to get a healthy dose of sunshine. When UV light hits cell membrane hormones in your skin, the light triggers movement of ions that ultimately convert these hormones into inactive Vitamin D. When this inactive form circulates to your liver and kidney, it is activated as Vitamin D that can be used in several body functions. (If you’re a science geek like me, you see a lot of parallels between this and the light reaction of photosynthesis in plants.) If you have a lot of pigment in your skin, you may need more sun exposure for your body to manufacture the same amount of Vitamin D as a pale person, just as you might if you wore a lot of sunscreen to protect from UV. Certainly don’t overdo it, however exposure up to a point of a natural glow should be enough no one wants a sunburn! Our bodies use Vitamin D in a wide range of ways, including the ability to absorb calcium, which is paramount for maintaining bone and nerve and muscle function. Vitamin D deficiency has also been strongly linked to some cancers, diabetes, and depression.
When we all huddle indoors, avoiding the rain and cloudy weather, we miss opportunities to improve our Vitamin D levels. Even in cloud-diffused sunlight, your exposed skin can work the magic of using sunlight to produce Vitamin D. So even if you’re wrapped head to toe in rain gear, be sure to get outside with your family! The exercise and change of environment will boost your spirits and energy levels, and you’ll get a dose of Vitamin D to improve your spirits and cell metabolism when you get back inside.
If you’re looking for food-based Vitamin D, you’ll have to eat or drink a lot to reap the same benefits from sun exposure. Food sources include milk fortified with Vitamin D and oily fish (sardines, salmon). Some people also claim mushrooms are a great source. If you take a supplement (the most popular historically is cod liver oil), however, be wary of overdoing it. It is possible to overload your body with ingested Vitamin D, but you can’t overdo Vitamin D production from the sun; your body uses natural feedback loops to control that.
We hope Stroller Hikes will inspire you to get outside with your family, either to enjoy one of our events or to plan your own. You’ll notice some changes at StrollerHikes.com (some of our summer intern work has gone live), but we still offer piles of information to help you plan your own outside excursions with your little one(s). Don’t know what to do with your extra energy after getting out in the sun today? Don’t forget about the moonlit hike tonight (see below)!
Here are this week’s events:
Saturday, January 30th at 5:30 pm join Jennifer and little Kayla for a Full Moon Hike at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos. Look for bats, listen for frogs and crickets, and see what other animals come to life as dusk falls at this lovely park with paved trails. Jennifer Snedeker will lead this family-friendly event, suitable for baby transport of all types. Meet at the Vasona playground parking lot. Bring some layered clothes if it cools down, and also bring water, a snack, and a flashlight. Jennifer is a wonderful educator who will break up the hike with games and exploration, depending on what critters the group sees. This event is co-sponsored by Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation. For information about Vasona’s trail and directions to get to Vasona, see the Los Gatos Creek Trail Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/LosGatosCreek/LosGatosCreek.html) or Santa Clara Parks and Rec’s Page about Vasona (http://www.parkhere.org/portal/site/parks/parksarticle?path=%252Fv7%252FParks%2520and%2520Recreation%252C%2520Department%2520of%2520%2528DEP%2529&contentId=54a698ba77784010VgnVCM10000048dc4a92____&cpsextcurrchannel=1).
Tuesday, February 2nd at 9 am Loren and little Angelo will lead a Toddler Trek at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. We will meet at the Vargas Dr. Entrance which is a break in the fence with plenty of street parking. The walk is unpaved and stroller friendly. Dogs welcome. We will make a 1 mile loop stopping midway at a playground. This will be very unstructured with plenty of time for the kids to explore and collect treasures. If we are lucky we will see some squirrel friends, acorn woodpeckers, and maybe even a hummingbird. To find this trail head south on Almaden Expressway, take a right onto Coleman (just before Almaden Lake Park), then a left onto Recife Way. Recife Way will dead end at Vargas Dr. and the trail head. If are running late give Loren a call at 831-227-6737. Come join on our adventure!
Tuesday, February 2nd at 1:30 pm join Amy B. and her wee ones for a hike at Shoreline Park in Mountain View/Palo Alto. The trail is paved, so it’s great for all strollers or kid carriers. Meet at the lake next to where the sailboats are kept (to the right of the cafe / bathrooms building) in Shoreline Park. There are plenty of play structures and a beach for toddlers – we’ll stop to play after the hike! Sorry, no dogs allowed. For information about the park and directions, see Shoreline Park Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/Shoreline/Shoreline.html) and Emily Renzel/Byxbee Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/Byxbee/Byxbee.html). If you’re running late, call Amy at 408-368-7161.
Friday, February 5th at 9:45 am Jenn K. and little Scott will lead at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino/Los Altos Hills. Meet at the main lower parking lot at the water fountain in front of the bathrooms (just past the entrance, turn right, then follow the road until it ends). For more information or directions, see the Rancho San Antonio Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/RanchoSanAntonio/ranchoSanAntonio.html). Sorry, dogs not allowed. The hike will be to the farm and back – about 2 miles, with a stop at the farm for a break. This hike is at least half shaded. If you’re running late, give Jenn a call at 210-859-8721.
Coming in two weeks: Toddler Treks on Monday and Thursday afternoons!
Revive yourself with some sunshine-induced Vitamin D today!
-Debbie and little Max