It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a sunny day. From an extra pep in your step to a dose of vitamin D, sunny days are the best. But, like most things in life, small amounts of sunlight are healthier than spending lots of time soaking up too many dangerous rays from the sun. So while it’s true that sunburns and skin cancers are very real threats to our health and it’s important to protect yourself from too much sun, there are also important benefits of getting some sunshine each day.
Let’s take a look at why “letting the sunshine in” can be very beneficial both mentally and physically:
- Stronger bones
Being outdoors soaking up some sun is perfect for making vitamin D. This sunshine vitamin is produced in our body when skin is exposed to sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day if fair skinned and up to 30 minutes for dark skin. Low levels of vitamin D has been linked to diseases like osteoporosis. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, worldwide, 1 in 3 women over 50 and 1 in 5 men will experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. Vitamin D is also necessary to absorb calcium, a bone building mineral helping prevent brittle and thin bones vulnerable to fractures. Adults ages 19 to 50 need 600 IU or 15 mcg of vitamin D daily while adults 51 and older need 800 IU or 20 mcg daily.
- Improves immune functioning
Besides strengthening bones, vitamin D is also critical for a well-run immune system helping us fight off illnesses, infections, viruses and some cancers keeping us healthy. Consistent exposure to sunlight, helping your body make vitamin D, is a key factor for improved immune functioning.
- Sunny disposition
Bright, sunny days can improve our mood and mental health status. Research at BYU found that people with little exposure to sunlight have more mental health distress than those with access to more sunshine where they live. This same research also found that sunny days impact mood more than rainfall, temperature, or other environmental factors. The increased exposure to natural light also appears to ease symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some people have mood changes during the fall and winter months when there are fewer daylight hours.
- Better sleep
A sun-filled day is just what you need to promote melatonin production, a hormone our bodies make critical to a good night’s sleep. Produced by the pineal gland in the brain, this sleep hormone helps improve sleep, regulates our circadian rhythm and lowers stress reactivity. Research has found that exposure to natural light in the morning, seems to help people sleep better at night. This helps your body produce melatonin, a hormone critical to a good night’s sleep. The body begins producing melatonin when its dark helping you feel sleepy about two hours after the sun has set. This is one reason we tend to go to bed later during long summer days.
- Lowers blood pressure
With almost half of all Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure, letting the sun in appears to be a good idea. A study conducted at Edinburgh University, found that moderate exposure to the sun’s UV rays helps reduce blood pressure levels. This is good news as high blood pressure is a known risk factor for increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease, both leading causes of death in the U.S.
- Enhances weight loss
Struggling to lose weight? Get up a little earlier with exposure to morning sunlight which has been linked to weight loss. There’s something about morning sunlight that is linked to weight loss. According to a study, as little as 20 to 30 minutes of early morning sun was enough to lower body mass index (BMI), trimming your waistline and helping shed extra pounds while reducing body fat.
Get some sun but also practice sun safety
It’s one thing to know why safe exposure to sunlight is essential for our health and well-being. But, here are a few reminders to also continue to practice sun safety:
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection when outdoors. Direct sunlight can damage eyes, leading to blurred vision and raising cataract risk.
- Always wear sunscreen with a 30 SPF or higher when outdoors. Look for “broad exposure” which blocks more of the UV light. Too much time outside without protection increases skin cancer risk, making skin age faster, causing wrinkles, a leathery texture, and dark spots.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat whenever outdoors for extended lengths of time.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Once a month, do a skin self-check of your entire body. If you notice anything unusual, see your doctor or a dermatologist.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.