7 Health Benefits of Sunlight
Do you know how important it is to get a little sunshine?
Scientifically, sunshine has a lot of benefits for our bodies. Here are seven great reasons to get outside and soak in the sun.
1. Improves your sleep
Your body creates a hormone called melatonin that is critical to helping you sleep. Because your body starts producing it when it’s dark, you usually start to feel sleepy two hours after the sun sets, which is one of the reasons our bodies naturally stay up later in the summer.
Research indicates that an hour of natural light in the morning will help you sleep better. Sunshine regulates your circadian rhythm by telling your body when to increase and decrease your melatonin levels. So, the more daylight exposure you can get, the better your body will produce melatonin when it’s time to go to sleep.
Related: 5 Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer
2. Reduces stress
Melatonin also lowers stress reactivity and being outside will help your body naturally regulate melatonin, which can help reduce your stress level. Additionally, because you're often doing something active when you’re outside (walking, playing, etc.), that extra exercise also helps to lower stress.
3. Maintains strong bones
One of the best (and easiest) ways to get vitamin D is by being outside. Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight—about 15 minutes in the sun a day is adequate if you’re fair skinned. And since Vitamin D helps your body maintain calcium and prevents brittle, thin, or misshapen bones, soaking in sun may be just what the doctor ordered.
4. Helps keep the weight offGetting outside for 30 minutes sometime between 8 a.m. and noon has been linked to weight loss. There, of course, could be other factors to this, but it seems there's a connection between sunlight in the early morning and weight loss.
5. Strengthens your immune system
Vitamin D is also critical for your immune system, and with consistent exposure to sunlight, you can help strengthen it. A healthy immune system can help reduce the risk of illness, infections, some cancers, and mortality after surgery.
6. Fights off depression
It’s not just in your head; there’s a scientific reason being in the sunshine improves your mood. Sunshine boosts your body’s level of serotonin, which is a chemical that improves your mood and helps you stay calm and focused. Increased exposure to natural light may help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder--a change in mood that typically occurs in the fall and winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight.
7. Can give you a longer life
A study that followed 30,000 Swedish women revealed that those who spent more time in the sun lived six months to two years longer than those with less sun exposure. More research needs to be done in this area, but it’s something scientists are continuing to study.
Of course, a little sunshine can go a long way (and too much is harmful for our skin). Depending on the shade of your skin, scientists estimate your body can produce vitamin D in about 5 to 30 minutes in the sun. If you're wearing sunscreen, you may not produce as much vitamin D. If you're outside for some much-needed vitamin D, don't expose bare skin longer than 5 to 30 minutes.