For years, we have been hearing how terrible the sun is for your health. Aside from the one caveat that it provides much-needed vitamin D, health professionals urged us to stay inside, and stay covered from head to toe whenever one must venture out. This radical advice, despite good intentions, may actually be harming our health even more than the sun.
Sun Exposure Benefits
Below you’ll learn about the top ten reasons that sun exposure is good for you.
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
A study done by researchers at the University of Edinburgh revealed that when sunlight hits the skin, nitric oxide is released into the bloodstream, and this helps to lower blood pressure. With so many adults being afflicted by high blood pressure and heart disease, this is a very exciting discovery.
2. Decreased Feelings of Depression
Without enough sunlight exposure, individuals can experience SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Aptly named, SAD makes people feel sad and blue when weather results in a lack of sunlight. It is especially easy to fall victim to SAD if you work inside all day. Just a little bit of sun exposure can increase your serotonin levels, lift your mood, and reverse these depressed feelings. Next time you’re feeling crummy, try taking a little walk outside (while the sun’s out) for a long-lasting pick-me-up.
3. Improves Brain Function
The vitamin D metabolized by our bodies thanks to sun exposure translates to healthier brains. In one study at the University of Cambridge, scientists found that in subjects exposed to more sunlight, cell growth in the hippocampus increased. This part of the brain is in charge of storing, protecting, and organizing our memories.
4. Exposure Can Reduce Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Research is beginning to show that the more sun exposure an Alzheimer’s patient gets, the less severe some aspects of the disease may become. One important study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed a correlation between sunlight/bright light exposure and a decrease in depression, wakefulness, and agitation in Alzheimer’s patients.
5. Improves Your Sleep
Your body needs to be familiar with the sun in order to keep its internal sleep clock calibrated, and to produce a proper amount of melatonin at the right time. If you’re really having trouble waking up in the morning, try taking your cup of coffee outside to soak in the sunshine and let your body know it’s really time to wake up; this will also help your body know when to fall asleep at night.
6. Heals Skin Disorders
Research has shown that exposure to sunlight may help treat skin issues such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and jaundice. Of course, sun exposure should still be kept to a moderate level, and should be guided by the advice of a medical professional.
7. Supports the Immune System
Because it can help treat an overactive immune system, sunlight is often recommended to those that suffer from autoimmune diseases. Sun exposure (Vitamin D) can also help your body fight infections as it increases the white blood cell count in your body.
8. Reduces Risk of Cancer
While this may seem counterintuitive, it seems to be clear that exposure to the sun can actually reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. This includes breast and colon cancers, but may have benefits for treating other types of cancer that are yet to be discovered. Some studies also suggest that sun exposure can actually prevent melanoma because it contains both UVA and UVB rays, whereas if you’re sitting in your car or inside but near a window, only the harmful UVA rays are landing on your skin.
9. Boosts Childhood Growth
While this may seem to be an odd benefit, it is true that exposure to sunlight is very beneficial to children and their proper development. Some studies suggest that there is a correlation between sun exposure as an infant and the growth rate of a child.
10. Improves Bone Health
Although this may be an obvious result of sun exposure due to vitamin D’s effect on strengthening bones, it can go even further than many people realize. Exposure to sunlight and increased vitamin D levels can also protect knees and joints from cartilage damage, in addition to protecting the bones against breaks.
Clearly, that magic ball of light in the sky offers some pretty powerful health benefits. As with everything, sun exposure should not be excessive and you should still be smart when spending time in the sun. Talk with your healthcare professional to find the best combination of exposure and prevention for you.