The sun has the potential to do your body a lot of harm -- from skin cancer
to premature aging, we're no strangers to the negative effects of
too much sun exposure. But did you know that there are dozens of ways
the sun can positively affect your physical, mental and emotional health?
Michael Stouder, MD, a family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group in Foothill Ranch, explains the 10 ways a healthy dose of sunshine can
have a positive impact on your mind and body.
1. Sunlight boosts your Vitamin D levels. Arguably the most important thing sunlight does is help the body produce
Vitamin D, a nutrient that's essential for your overall physical and
mental health. Because Vitamin D is found naturally in so few food sources,
the best way to get your daily dose is through supplements or, of course,
spending a few minutes a day in the great outdoors. "Ten to 30 minutes
a couple days a week is enough for most people," explains Dr. Stouder,
"but be sure to spend that time without sunscreen, as that blocks
the sun's rays and prevents adequate Vitamin D production."
2. It can improve your heart health. "Recent research has linked heart disease to Vitamin D deficiencies,"
says Dr. Stouder. "Adequate sun exposure can raise those Vitamin
D levels and lessen the chance of running into heart trouble down the
A lack of sunlight may increase your cancer risk. Similarly, Vitamin D deficiencies have been traced to higher incidences
of certain cancers, most notably pancreatic and breast cancer.
It can reduce your risk for rheumatoid arthritis. "A study done a couple years back linked UVB exposure to risk of rheumatoid
arthritis in women," says Dr. Stouder, "finding that the participants
that lived in areas with notably more sun were nearly 20 percent less
likely to have experienced this disease."
Vitamin D helps maintain muscle health. Whether from the sun or from a supplement, Vitamin D plays a major role
in minimizing muscle cramps and joint pain.
It keeps your circadian rhythm in check. The rise and fall of the sun are the primary indicators, as far as your
brain is concerned, that it's time to wake up or time to go to sleep.
"A lack of adequate sunlight during the daytime can lead to irregular
sleep schedules, waking up throughout the night, and ultimately a less
energized brain and body," explains Dr. Stouder.
7. Sunlight wards off Seasonal Affective Disorder. Commonly referred to as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a particular
type of depression that occurs in some people, mostly women ages 18 to
30, when they don't get enough regular sun exposure. For these reasons,
SAD is most common during long winters or in areas of the world that don't
receive much sun.
8. Sunshine is necessary for healthy eye development. "Studies have shown that children and adolescents that spend a lot
of time outside lower their chances of becoming nearsighted," says
Dr. Stouder. Just be sure to protect your eyes, and your children’s,
with a good pair of quality sunglasses, as too much direct sunlight can
damage the retinas over time.
9. Sunshine keeps your blood pressure at bay. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is significantly more prevalent
in colder areas that don't get much sunlight. The theory here is that
the sun's rays push more nitric oxide to the bloodstream, helping
to widen the blood vessels and therefore decrease the pressure.
10. Bones are stronger thanks to sunlight. "A couple years ago, a study came out linking skin cancer to a lower
number of hip fractures," explains Dr. Stouder. "That's
led us to study the effects of Vitamin D on bone health, and sure enough,
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, a nutrient that builds the foundation
for healthy bones."
"There's no doubt that overexposure to UV light is harmful --
it's the leading cause of skin cancer," notes Dr. Stouder. "But
it can be just as harmful, in different ways, to avoid it. Be smart and
wear sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, and spend some time outdoors."
Share your experience with the positive effects of sunshine in the comments below!
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.