While many of us love the sun for the warm feeling it leaves on our skin or the opportunity to shed some layers, sunshine brings a few other lesser-known benefits. From better bone health to improved sleep and even a reduced risk of developing some cancers, the sun’s rays can greatly benefit our health.
That said, it’s common knowledge that too much direct exposure to the sun’s rays can be harmful to our heath, causing skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Finding the right balance is key. Most people only need a few minutes in the sun to start taking advantage of the benefits; but you should always be careful not to let the skin burn.
Start out with just a few minutes in direct sunlight and take advantage of these 11 health benefits.
It’s common knowledge that prolonged exposure to the sun without adequate protection can lead to skin cancer, but sunlight can also offset the risk of developing other types of cancer. According to a scientific paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives, “Whereas skin cancer is associated with too much UVR exposure, other cancers could result from too little. Living at higher latitudes increases the risk of dying from Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate, and other cancers, as compared with living at lower latitudes.”
Exposure to sunlight during the day helps keep circadian rhythms on track and boosts levels of serotonin, which in turn helps you fall asleep more easily, enjoy a better night’s sleep and wake up more refreshed.
Sunlight increases levels of serotonin, which helps balance your mood and promotes feelings of happiness. Sun exposure is also said to alleviate symptoms of depression and when combined with exercise the mood boosting effects of sunlight are especially potent.
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a depressive condition which is believed to be directly linked to a lack of sunlight. Though light boxes and other therapy can be used to help, natural sunlight is the best medicine. Make an effort to get outside in the fall and winter to combat SAD.
Sunlight can help clear skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne when sun exposure timed and monitored. People with mild conditions may find relief when they put affected areas in direct sunlight—experts suggest starting with 10 minutes and increasing exposure, it’s important not to let the sun burn. After the initial time you should cover up with sunscreen or clothing, it only takes a few minutes to get the benefits.
In addition to putting you in a good mood, the boost in serotonin levels that comes with being out in the sun also helps regulate your appetite. People often lose more weight in the summer for a number of reasons, but the increased serotonin helps control feelings of hunger and the sun brings people outdoors, which usually results in more physical activity.
Spending a few minutes in the sun just might be the easiest way to prevent Vitamin D deficiency, which researchers say contributes to a slew of other major health problems. The deficiency has been linked to a greater risk of developing a number of cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive issues in the elderly and type I and II diabetes.
Studies show that Vitamin D is crucial for good eye health, especially as we age. A few minutes in the sun every now and then could help prevent against age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes vision loss. Just remember to protect those eyes with sunglasses.