This time of year, with the sun shining and half term fast approaching, everyone wants to be outside. It feels so good to have the warm sun on our bare skin. However, while most people are aware of the dangers of too much sun, many don’t realize that sunlight has enormous health benefits as well. Keeping in mind that you still need to protect your skin with a high-quality, preferably natural or organic sunscreen if you are outside for prolonged periods, let’s look at some of the surprising benefits of sunlight.
Sunlight can reduce our risk of breast, colon, and rectal cancers.
It’s not just plants that use sunlight, humans do too. Through a complex process, our bodies turn sunlight into life-giving vitamin D. The connection between vitamin D deficiency and cancer was first made by Dr's Frank and Cedric Garland from the University of California, San Diego. After finding that the incidence of colon cancer was nearly three times higher in New York than in New Mexico, the Garland brothers hypothesized that lack of sun exposure, resulting in a vitamin D deficiency, played a role. Research now indicates that being deficient in vitamin D increases the risk of many cancers, especially breast and colon, so with the UK’s interchangeable weather, make you get your daily vitamin D top-up whenever you get the chance.
A 2007 study found that not getting enough direct sunlight could increase our chances of cancer by at least 70%. However, sitting in too much sun without protection can cause skin cancer. Happy mediums for all!
Sunlight is beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients.
Clinical research has shown that exposure to full-spectrum light throughout the day coupled with darkness at night can help improve some aspects of Alzheimer’s disease—reducing agitation, increasing sleep efficiency, decreasing night time wakefulness, and decreasing night time activity in these patients.
Sunshine can help clear up acne, eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot...
Exposure to sunlight is extremely beneficial for individuals with psoriasis. In one study, an outdoor four-week sunbathing therapy was shown to promote significant clearance of psoriatic symptoms in 84 percent of subjects.
Some experts urge that getting moderate amounts of sun can help clear up many skin disorders. And even still, sun may improve your digestion and metabolism.
Sunlight can ease mild depression.
There has been a lot of research on the link between sunlight and mood. One solid study found that sunlight actually increases levels of a natural antidepressant in the brain. On sunny days, the brain produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin than on darker days.
Sunlight contributes to bone health in older adults.
The sun is our best source of Vitamin D which is needed to keep bones and teeth healthy. It is well known that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium. Emerging research is showing a direct correlation between both bone density and blood levels of vitamin D3. Higher blood levels of vitamin D3 are associated with a lower rate of fractures of virtually all types.
Sunshine helps you sleep better.
If you get a lot of natural light during the day, your circadian rhythms will align. Natural light also stimulates your pineal gland to produce melatonin which is important for a good night’s sleep
When sunlight hits your eyes, your optic nerve sends a message to the gland in the brain that produces melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep); the gland decreases its secretions of melatonin until the sun goes down again. In other words, exposure to sunlight during the day increases the natural production of melatonin at night. Low levels of melatonin production are linked to poor sleep quality, especially in older adults.
Sunshine puts us in a better mood.
Sunshine boosts your mood by increasing serotonin production and enhancing your body’s supply of endorphins. When you step outside and suddenly feel like smiling, odds are that the sun is smiling down on you. David Strohmetz is a psychologist at Monmouth University. As he told Psychology Today, “nice days put us in a good mood, which engenders helping and generosity. When we’re in a good mood, we want to maintain that mood.”
Sunshine influences the stock market for the better.
The stock market is three times as likely to go up if the city of the exchange is having a sunny day. No word on if traders have figured out a way to beam sunlight onto the floors of the New York Stock Exchange.
Sunshine helps you smoke less.
Psychology Today points out that on cloudy days, we “compensate artificially.” This means that those who smoke, drink, and do whatever else makes them feel “good,” really lay it on thick.
We eat less chocolate on sunny days.
Chocolate makes us happy, so we need less of it when the sun is shining. Because we’re already happy! But is this really a benefit? Only if you’re watching your weight. Sunshine has also been linked to improving our rate of metabolism, which means we burn more calories on sunny days.
Sunshine can influence your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Your body converts a type of cholesterol into Vitamin D. Sunshine also warms the body, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure and it reduces the risk of stroke – researchers at the University of Alabama announced that sunlight is related to reducing strokes in white people.
Sunshine just generally makes you FEEL GOOOOOOOOD!
It’s a good idea to spend at least 30 minutes in the sunshine without sunscreen (best to do this before 10am or after 3pm as the sun is really strong between those times) to ensure your body gets enough Vitamin D (note: these times are for British climates). Even an SPF8 can block up to 95% of Vitamin D synthesis.
I'll take a coffee with my sunshine...
So go on, go get yourself some rays whilst they last!