t is not uncommon for medical experts, dermatologists, beauticians and other professionals to warn against exposure to sunlight, as its ultraviolet rays have harmful effects on your skin. Consequently, many people actively avoid the sun and all outdoor activities. While it is true that overexposure to ultraviolet rays may be harmful, the sun is a natural source and daily exposure to sunlight for specific periods is beneficial to your health generally.
Soaking up the sun is healthy in moderation. We need a little unfiltered sunlight to help us absorb calcium. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D. Vitamin D spurs bone growth in infants and children and it keeps our bones strong by regulating calcium levels. Calcium keeps your bones and muscles healthy. Without enough calcium, muscle can cramp, hurt or feel weak. Vitamin D also boosts immune system. According to a study reported in National Institutes for Health, epidemiologic evidence links vitamin D deficiency to autoimmune diseases, depression, dementia, infectious diseases and more. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. soaking in the sun for 10-15 minutes two to three times a week produces all the vitamin D your body needs. Getting just the right amount of sunlight is recommended as unnecessary exposure causes sun damage. If you plan to be out in the sun for extended hours, make sure to stay sun smart by staying dehydrated, protecting your body with sunscreen; choose a sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher and water resistant and wear a hat to shade your face and neck and put on some sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Let’s look at a few major health benefits of sunlight and soaking in it:
SUNLIGHT BOOSTS VITAMIN D
Unlike most vitamins that are obtained from food, vitamin D can be synthesized also from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for many functions such as strengthening bones and teeth, supporting the immune system, losing excess fat, protecting the brain against dementia and decreasing asthma symptoms in both adults and children. Time spent outdoors can help your daily dose of vitamin D as it helps allows your body absorbs calcium that maintains your bones and teeth. Vitamin D can reduce inflammation, protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer and strengthen your body’s immune system.
The sun is the best source of vitamin D as it can be difficult to get just the right amount from food alone. When the ultraviolet rays from the sun interact with the cholesterol in your skin cells, your body is able to produce its own vitamin D.
SUNLIGHT HAS PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS
Exposure to sunshine even indirectly like through a window can alleviate stress levels. Sunlight causes the brain to produce more serotonin; a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory and mood. Sunlight controls the secretion of melatonin; a hormone that helps you sleep. The exposure to sunlight during the day increases the natural production of melatonin at night. The sun has a major influence on circadian rhythms and regulating your sleep patterns. Staying indoors too much is bound to confuse your body clock, messing up your circadian rhythm. Serotonin and melatonin work together to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle, helping you feel rested during the day and get better sleep at night.
SUNLIGHT DECREASES THE EFFECT OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHT
More time spent in daylight means less time in artificial lighting such as fluorescent bulbs. Extended exposure to artificial lights is connected to elevated stress response in some people known to cause eye strain and migraines. More time spent outdoors is linked to reduced risk of stress and high blood pressure. When sunlight hits your skin, your body releases a compound called nitric acid. This compound lowers your blood pressure and by maintaining healthy blood pressure, you can reduce the risk of cardiac disease and stroke.
SUNLIGHT REGULATES METABOLISM
Sometimes it can be hard to maintain a healthy weight but it turns out sunlight plays a role in increasing our insulin resistance (the body’s ability to move sugar out of the bloodstream). Sunlight exposure therefore has an influence on our metabolism.
SUNLIGHT MAY REDUCE THE RISK OF SOME DISEASES
Some studies have linked vitamin D to protection against colon, kidney and breast cancer. Combining sunlight therapy with cancer treatments also tends to improve the patient’s prognosis. Sunlight also has a beneficial effect on skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and fungal infections of the skin, as well as musculoskeletal problems like multiple sclerosis and rickets.
SUNLIGHT BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Ultraviolet radiation kills bacteria and interferes with their reproductive cycle by damaging DNA. Soldiers in World War 1 even used it to disinfect wounds. Sunlight penetrates deep into the skin to cleanse the blood and blood vessels. White blood cells (lymphocytes) increase with sun exposure and these play a major role in defending the body against infections. Similar to the effects of exercise, sunlight increases oxygen content in the blood and also enhances the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to tissues. The sun also has a great effect on stamina, fitness and muscular development.
There are several things you can do to increase access to sunlight; things such as engaging in more outdoor activities, using light drapes and curtains, using mirrors and angles to bounce sunlight around the room, choosing light and airy colors for your décor as this will aid sunlight splashes into rooms etc.
However, like most things we have been given to enjoy, moderation is key to getting the best of natural daylight. Keep exposure moderate; factors such as your skin type, time of day and how much skin is exposed all determine the healthiest dosage of sunshine for you. If you are not used to the sun, you will have higher sensitivity to it. Avoid sunburn by building your tolerance slowly. People who are light skinned will benefit from a 10-15 minutes daily dosage, while a dark-skinned person may require almost six times more exposure.
Take advantage of nature and get a little extra sunshine today. I strive to soak up as much as I can and I hope you get the most out of it as well.