June 22, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Created Designs for Good Health

Science keeps finding that good health is built into the Master Plan.

The Outdoors Is Our Environment

Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing (Nature Scientific Reports). Civilization has been a long process of insulating us from the outdoors. Much of it is for good reason, understandably (during blizzards and heat waves, for instance), but on good days, why bury your face in a computer screen or smartphone? Researchers monitored the well-being of almost 20,000 participants in the UK and found a peak value of about 2-3 hours per week of outdoor exposure was a significant contributing factor:

Creation Safaris and other outdoor ministries help people escape to reality.

Weekly contact was categorised using 60 min blocks. Analyses controlled for residential greenspace and other neighbourhood and individual factors. Compared to no nature contact last week, the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater with contact ≥120 mins…. Positive associations peaked between 200–300 mins per week with no further gain. The pattern was consistent across key groups including older adults and those with long-term health issues. It did not matter how 120 mins of contact a week was achieved (e.g. one long vs. several shorter visits/week). Prospective longitudinal and intervention studies are a critical next step in developing possible weekly nature exposure guidelines comparable to those for physical activity.

Our bodies are well designed for interaction with the environment. It’s a shame to deprive them of what they were made for. At The Conversation, lead author Matthew White stresses that the benefits are free to all. “Access to most parks and green spaces is free, so even the poorest, and often the least healthy, members of communities have equal access for their health and well-being, he says. “We hope that evidence such as ours will help keep them that way.”

Sleep Is Vital to Our Mental Health

Sleep increases chromosome dynamics to enable reduction of accumulating DNA damage in single neurons (Zada et al, Nature Communications). This technical paper answers a simple question: Why do we need to sleep? Everyone has probably wondered about that. It’s not just because of the dark at night, because many work late shifts. No, the answer is much more interesting and important: brain activity in waking hours puts a lot of strain on our neurons, and the sleep shift gives the repair crews time to work. Mourrain and Wang explain in a commentary on this paper in Current Biology:

While most of our body cells are renewed during the course of our lives, we die with much of the neuronal cells we are born with. Thus, in contrast to a skin, blood or liver cells, which live from days to months, a neuron may need to preserve its integrity while maintaining its capacity to connect to other neurons in an ever-changing environment across decades. While it is unclear how neuronal tissues achieve such a feat, a recurring period of our lives may be critical for the survival and maintenance of our brain cells, including their genome — sleep. A recent study from Zada et al. shows at the single cell level that sleep increases chromosome dynamics in neuronal nuclei to repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) accumulated in the genome during wake.

Double-stranded breaks are among the most dangerous of DNA injuries. They can lead to cell death or cancer. Complex molecular machines have to grab both loose ends and stitch them back together. The scientists found that genes for DSB repair proteins are up-regulated during sleep. As you lie down in sleep, think about those teams going to work to save your brain!

Lack of sleep takes a severe toll on the body and mind. Another study reported by Medical Xpress showed that sleep-deprived firefighters risk exhaustion and mental health problems. About half of firefighters are affected, the study says; most fire stations require 24-hour shifts, sometimes for days in a row, and alarms can go off at any time. Researchers in Australia “suggest that reducing sleep and mental health disturbances should be a focus of fire departments’ occupational health screening programs, along with trialling interventions designed to maximise sleep.”

Without enough sleep, the brain can also accumulate damaging molecules. Science Daily reported on another paper in the Journal of Neuroscience that found an association between lack of sleep and accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, the molecules that are diagnostic of Alzheimer’s Disease. For your protection in your old age, be sure you get enough sleep. Sleeping on your side is best, says Medical Xpress. That posture not only helps your repair machinery eliminate “brain waste” most efficiently, it also helps prevent neck and back strain.

Your life will be richer if you live in harmony with the way your body and brain were designed. The Creator thought of everything. Even though the world is fallen from its original perfection, we have ample testimony of God’s design for our joy, peace and health, if we will learn from God’s word and obey it. Learn to love what is good for you, and be grateful. Gratitude increases as we learn about God’s designs, such as DNA repair during sleep and the benefits of natural environments for our eyes and minds.

Our greatest need, however, is not bodily health. We need to be “born again” to have spiritual health and a proper relationship with our Maker. Even the most disabled person can have that greatest need fulfilled in his or her spirit. See our Site Map for trail markers on how to get on the straight and narrow path to the joy of the Lord.

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