Sun’s Out! 3 Ways Sunlight Affects Your Health
As winter gradually recedes and the warmer springtime temperatures finally step forward, a slew of outdoor activities is just around the corner. The days of gardening, swimming, sunbathing, and most of all sweating, are nearly upon us!
With the urge to go outside rising alongside the temperature, many people will be exposing their skin to bright sunlight frequently. But the sun offers more than just warm summer rays—it’s also essential for improving many aspects of health within and without the body.
Gearing up for some time in the sun soon? Read up on all the benefits you can receive from those bright, cloudless days...as well as some of the risk factors associated with too much exposure to UV light.
1. Sunlight Provides Vitamin D
The first benefit we’ll examine goes straight to the nutritional side of body health. Nutrition might not be the first component you think about when considering sunlight, but the sun’s ultraviolet radiation actually carries supple amounts of Vitamin D that get absorbed into your body through your skin. Vitamin D promotes healthy brain cell function, provides anti-inflammatory and immune system perks, and allows your body to absorb calcium for stronger bone health.
Vitamin D is difficult to receive via natural dietary means. If you’re wondering which foods are filled with Vitamin D, look no further than salmon, cod, sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms, and various fortified foods. Beyond those dishes, however, the options are pretty slim. The scarcity of Vitamin D in food sources is one of the reasons why an estimated 40% of adults in America are Vitamin D deficient.
No need to fear! Adequate sunlight exposure can deliver enough Vitamin D for your body to get full use of despite the lack of nutritional sources. When the sun’s rays come into contact with your skin, a chemical reaction occurs that converts cholesterol within your skin cells into Vitamin D. This means sun exposure is by far the best method of supplying your body with this essential nutrient.
Because excessive ultraviolet light exposure and the resulting skin damage is always something to be cautious of, how long should you be outside to get enough Vitamin D? How much UV exposure from the sun do you really need before resorting to sun protection?
One study that observed the optimal levels of sunlight for fair-skinned people (with less melanin or pigmentation in their skin) should receive suggests about 10-30 minutes of summer sunlight exposure three times per week should be enough, preferably around noon. More time might be necessary during colder seasons or for people with darker skin, but be wary of spending too much time in the sun without proper protection from its ultraviolet rays. Use sunscreen if you plan to spend longer than 30 minutes outside under a hot sun to avoid sunburn—depending on your skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays, you might need protection even sooner, or sunscreen with a higher SPF!
2. Sunlight Boosts Your Mood
There’s a reason why cloudy, rainy days can often make us feel gloomy or tired. Whereas dark settings encourage people to take a nap, sunlight brightens our mood and gives us more energy. But how?
Sunlight exposure causes increased amounts of serotonin to release into the brain. Serotonin is known to improve mental clarity, reduce anxiety, and increase focus, making it particularly important for maintaining good mental health.
In the absence of good sunlight levels—particularly at night or on overcast days—higher levels of melatonin are manufactured in the brain in place of serotonin, causing us to feel groggy and lethargic.
Without proper sun exposure, you are at risk for developing a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (ironically abbreviated “SAD”). This stems from the changing seasons not providing enough sunlight levels for your body to produce the right amounts of serotonin, and can commonly occur during winter or in extreme northern and southern latitudes where the sun might disappear for weeks at a time.
So if you see that sun shining outside, head out on a walk or simply bask in its brightness for a short while! You’ll quickly feel happier, healthier, and more energized to take on life.
3. Sunlight Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle
As it turns out, proper sunlight exposure does much more than improving your mood and supplying you with appropriate amounts of Vitamin D (although those benefits are certainly big!). Sunlight is the key to a long and healthy life.
Somewhat paradoxically, good exposure to the sunny outdoors helps you sleep better each night. This is because sunlight helps to reinforce the circadian rhythms that dictate when you feel tired and when you’re ready for work. By receiving enough sunlight, your body picks up on cues to supply energy and stay awake longer (which is also why people naturally tend to have more energy during summer months when the days are longer). Once the light levels dip in the evening, you’ll start to feel more tired as larger amounts of melatonin are produced.
But more than that, research has demonstrated that proper exposure to sunlight could extend a person’s lifetime. According to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, mortality rates were nearly twice as high amongst participants who actively avoided sunlight, while the groups who received proper amounts throughout each week lived between six months and two years longer. The actual cause of these findings is not well understood, but the correlation is undeniable: for a longer life, the benefits of sunlight are important!
Nevertheless, always be mindful of sun safety. Risk factors of overexposure to UV radiation include several types of skin cancer if too much sun damage accumulates. If any symptoms concern you, visit your local dermatologist to learn more.
Don’t Forget the Health Benefits of Sanitization
While the sun is certainly important for improving your immune system through Vitamin D supplementation, it cannot prevent foreign bacteria from invading your body and bringing about disease. Cleanliness is just as important to a healthy lifestyle as catching enough rays!
If you need a quality hand sanitizing solution to eliminate the germs before they become a problem, be sure to check out Muse Health’s Fragrance-free Hand Sanitizer—it contains enough alcohol to kill 99% of bacteria while moisturizing your hands with natural oils to make sure they don’t dry out.
Visit our shop to browse all of our health and wellness products for sale. The emergence of spring is the perfect opportunity to stock up before allergies become prevalent and spring-cleaning endeavors take off. Be prepared and enjoy the sun!