How good is sunshine for our bodies?
The first thing that probably comes to mind is your summer tan, sun-kissed hair and the warmth against your skin, but believe it or not, there are countless reasons to get your daily dose of moderate sunshine – in fact, it is the main source of Vitamin D in our bodies.
When you expose your skin to sunlight, the UVB rays start a chain reaction which results in your body synthesising Vitamin D. This doesn’t mean you need to burn, or even tan, with studies showing that half the time it takes to go pink is more than enough exposure to the sunshine, which could be as little as 15 minutes for someone who is fair skinned.
How much vitamin D is your body producing you ask? This all depends on your genetic makeup, skin tone, the time of day, where you live and the amount of skin you expose to sunlight, but amounts have been measure between 10 000 and 25 000 IU in less than the time it takes you to turn pink.
This, however, doesn’t mean you should spend your life in the sun without protection. These helpful UVB rays are the same rays that could also increase your risks of skin cancers. Research has shown that moderate but frequent sun exposure is healthy, but overexposure and intense exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. Several studies have suggested that suddenly getting a lot of sun is more dangerous than steady exposure over time.
Why is Vitamin D so important? It has shown to be an essential element in the absorption of calcium, promoting bone growth and repair. Too little Vitamin D can result in soft bones in children and an increase in osteoporosis risk for older people. Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in boosting the immune system, with low vitamin D levels being associated with an increased risk for colds and flu.
According to the Vitamin D Council, the best way to enjoy the sunshine and get its maximum benefit, while being cautious of the potential risks is to cover up with clothing and go into the shade after getting a little bit of sun exposure. Sunscreens can be helpful.
However, studies have shown that sunscreen doesn’t protect against all types of skin cancers, and in some cases might increase your risk. For babies, on the other hand, the Vitamin D Council recommends very little direct sun contact, and rather to discuss introducing supplements into their diet with your physician.
There have been numerous studies on the effect of sunshine on our bodies, especially because of the high volumes of cancer research. Some of the positive findings will probably surprise you! According to the University of Colorado, sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm, which in turn helps to standardize your sleep cycle. Your body responds naturally to sunrise and sunset, or light and darkness, to when it’s time to be asleep or awake.
The Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden monitored 30 000 women over a 20 year period and discovered that life expectancy for women who avoided the sun was about 2.1 years shorter than those who spent extended periods of time outdoors. Harvard Medical School, alongside Massachusetts General Hospital, conducted research on the effect sunlight has on your mood, with results showing that exposure to the sun is associated with the release of beta-endorphins, a chemical understood to have a “feel good” effect. With all the published work available, and the obvious health benefits of spending short periods of time in the sun, each of should re-evaluate how we spend our day light hours.