6 Amazing Health Benefits of Sunshine that Will Make You Go Outside TODAY!
We all know about the harmful effects of the sun. When you think of sun exposure, your mind probably immediately goes to skin cancer. While you should always protect yourself with sunscreen and other methods, there are plenty of wonderful health benefits of sunshine in moderation!
In fact, maybe we need a little more sunshine than we expected.
Reports show that about 42% of the US population is vitamin D deficient, with certain populations having even higher levels of deficiency. Sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” our primary source of vitamin D is produced in our bodies as a response to direct sunlight. So almost half of America isn’t getting enough sunshine!
Maybe that’s due to fear of too much exposure leading to skin cancer, or the simple fact that our society has been moving more towards an indoor, sedentary lifestyle. Either way, this planet revolves around the sun and, as it turns out, many of our body’s processes do too! The key, as always, is moderation and preparation.
But how much sunlight is the right amount? There’s no conclusive answer to this question, mostly because each person processes sunlight differently depending on a variety of factors such as skin tone, age, and where you live. While most experts agree that 10-30 minutes of sunlight each day is a safe answer, the best thing to do here is talk with your doctor about the amount of sun you should be getting every day and a proper sunscreen regimen.
Here are just some of the incredible benefits of sunshine that will make you want to go outside today!
1. Improve sleep
One of the major health benefits of sunshine is that it is directly related to the quality of your sleep. Your circadian rhythm is largely regulated by proper amounts of sunlight and darkness. Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of the hormones serotonin and melatonin in your brain, respectively.
Serotonin boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused and is a chemical precursor to melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. Since melatonin is created from serotonin, you need an adequate amount of sunshine during the day to produce high levels of serotonin, from which there can be enough melatonin available to be triggered at night by the darkness and help you fall (and stay) asleep.
2. Fight depression/Improve mood/Reduce stress
As previously mentioned, one of the health benefits of sunshine is that it triggers the production of serotonin, a hormone that boosts and improves your mood, makes you feel calm, and helps you remain focused.
Without adequate levels of serotonin present in your body, you become more susceptible to depression. Therefore, getting enough sunshine every day and increasing the production of serotonin makes it easier to fight off depression and improve your mood overall. Not to mention, being out in nature has also been shown to have a positive effect on your mental state.
Another health benefit of sunshine is that when you’re outside you’re usually more prone to physical activity, even just when going for a simple walk. Exercise releases endorphins, which are essentially your body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. An increased level of endorphins is one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety.
And this leads us to our next point.
3. Weight management
As we’ve just seen, one of the health benefits of sunshine is the added bonus of an increased likeliness of extra physical activity while outside. Especially if you are one of the 80% of Americans with predominantly sedentary jobs, increasing the amount of physical activity and exercise you get every day will help you manage your weight (along with a healthy diet, of course).
Sunlight also helps you manage your weight by being a contributing factor in controlling your appetite in a couple of ways. As discussed, a lack of sunlight can be a factor leading to depression, and depression significantly affects a person’s appetite. Additionally, appetite is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain that works with serotonin to relieve hunger. Therefore, since sunlight helps trigger serotonin production, it also helps to maintain a healthy appetite, which leads to a healthier weight.
4. Strengthen immune system/Reduce risk of disease
Let’s talk more about vitamin D. As previously mentioned, one of the health benefits of sunshine is that it is our primary source of vitamin D production in our body. But why is vitamin D so important?
It is now believed that at least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are regulated by the active form of vitamin D in our bodies, including several involved in calcium metabolism and neuromuscular and immune system functioning. This means that not only is vitamin D important for maintaining a healthy immune system which affects overall health, it is also an integral part of many other systems and processes in our body to function properly and reducing the risk of several diseases, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Heart disease
- The flu
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s symptoms
- And (surprise!) several types of cancer
Another relevant health benefit of sunshine as our primary source of vitamin D is that over 80% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients were found to be vitamin D deficient in a recent study. So, it’s very likely that a lack of vitamin D can put you at a higher risk for Covid-19, as with other diseases.
5. Heal skin conditions
Along with preventing diseases, another one of the health benefits of sunshine is that it has been proven to actually heal a variety of unfortunate skin conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these may include:
- Lupus vulgaris
6. Bone health
Finally, another one of the important health benefits of sunshine and its effects on vitamin D production that needs to be noted is that it directly affects our bone health. As we age, our bones need calcium to keep them dense and strong and to avoid osteoporosis.
But our bodies can’t properly absorb calcium without (you guessed it!) vitamin D from good ol’ sunshine.
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