Yeah, it’s that important. We often talk about the harm the sun can do – like sunburns and skin cancer – but we fail to talk about the good it does for our health. Here are a few of the health benefits of sunshine – the first obviously being vitamin D.Disclaimer: While your doctor and dermatologist would never suggest going outside without protection, I advocate for 15 minutes of unprotected sunshine per day. The reason for this is because sunscreens, especially the strong ones (full of chemicals by the way), are designed to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. But to get the maximum benefit of the sun, we need at least a little time where we can fully absorb their benefits. Keep it short and if you’re out more than 10-15 minutes, then put on a hat, long-sleeves or chemical-free sunscreens.
Health Benefits of Sunshine
1. Vitamin D: This simple little (necessary) vitamin has become common knowledge over the past couple years. Everyone’s talking about it and for good reason. Many of us, especially those living in areas with minimal winter sunshine, are deficient. (A simple blood test at your doctor’s office can determine if you’re deficient). What happens is the body absorbs sunlight and turns it into vitamin D (kind of like plants).
Sunlight has also been found to decrease the risk for certain cancers, delay onset of eye issues like cataracts, lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Vitamin D (even in the form of supplements in the winter) may also strengthen the immune system.
Not to mention, vitamin D is necessary for the body to properly absorb calcium. This equates to strength and health of bones and teeth, meaning sunshine can help keep your bones strong and healthy.
2. Mood Enhancement: Anyone with a case of the winter blah’s can see the way sunshine improves mood. It makes us feel happier, more alert and ready to tackle life. Everyone seems more cheerful and full of hope. The first nice days in the spring, everyone wants to get out and bask in the warmth and promise of a sunny day.
3. Sleep: Anyone who has spent a long day outside knows that it can knock you out. Call it sunshine or fresh air or whatever, but sleep comes easily after a day of outdoor work or lounging on the beach. The sun is tied to circadian rhythms (clearly), and these rhythms affect the normal process of night and day, sleep and wake, etc. Getting a bunch of sunshine actually stimulates the production of hormones (like melatonin) that affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. So sunlight helps you sleep restfully. That’s a good thing for health in a ton of ways.
4. Exercise: So this isn’t as clear of a connection, but sunshine helps us be more active. Really, who wants to go out in 20 degrees and cloudy? No one. But 60 and sunny and everyone crawls out of their winter holes and embraces the sun. A nice day versus a crappy day can determine whether we get out and do something active, so the sun surely helps us be more active and thus, more healthy.
Although being happier, more active, sleeping better and cutting risk of cancer and stroke is great, this is just scratching the surface. On an evolutionary level, the sun – and the fact that Earth is close enough, but not too close to it – is instrumental. We wouldn’t be here without it, so it makes sense that it has far more power and benefit than we can even understand.
If it’s sunny where you live, get out and enjoy it. Eat your lunch outside, take a short walk, take the dog for a hike, take a family bike-ride, play with your kids at the park, start your garden or just sit on your patio with a glass of wine. Whatever it is, even if you just look up and acknowledge the sun as you’re walking from your car to work, just remember its there. Remember it matters and take a few moments to admire it’s awesomeness. Bonus points for lifting your gaze, closing your eyes and just taking it in. It’s impossible not to smile as you gaze up and feel the warmth.What do you like to do to get outside in the sunshine? Do you feel its benefits? Share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear from you and learn from you.