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11 Benefits of Sunshine

By Amanda Morgan

One of the greatest advantages of summer is longer days and increased amount of sunlight. Often people are concerned about the sun’s ray and the danger they can cause. However, sunshine can be very beneficial to the body if a person is exposed in moderation and takes adequate precautions such as sunscreen. Doctors suggest that between five and fifteen minutes of sunlight a day can aid a person’s mental and physical health. Read this article to learn eleven sunshine benefits.

1) Lower Cholesterol

High cholesterol is a serious problem facing the nation. Over 71 million adults in the United States of America have high cholesterol and ultimately have a higher risk of heart disease or a stroke. These two conditions are caused by a hardening of the arteries from an excess amount of cholesterol in the body. Normal cholesterol levels can be maintained through healthy eating, exercise, and sunlight. A study titled “Sunlight, Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease” by Grimes found that people who participate in outdoor activities during the summer are less susceptible to chronic diseases such as heart disease. It is believed that the vitamin D produced from sun exposure helps to battle high levels of cholesterol. While sunlight alone may not cure high cholesterol, it will aid in treating it.

2) Happiness

Take advantage of the sun’s natural ability to boost your mood by relaxing in the sun for a few minutes every day. Studies have shown that exposure to the sun helps to improve mood and lower the rate of depression in individuals. During the fall and winter, the rate of reported depression in people tends to increase due to a lowering of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is critical in the body and helps to reduce the symptoms of depression. Exposure to the sun will ensure that the levels of vitamin D in your body do not fall and, in turn, you will experience a natural mood enhancer. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety and increases happiness, is produced in higher amounts when a person is exposed to the sun. Soak up the sun and experience a boost in happiness!

3) Skin Disorders

Skip the skin creams and meidcations when it comes to treating skin conditions such as eczema or acne. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition which causes itchy red patches to appear on the body. Treatment of this condition involves the use of multiple types of lotions and oils. One treatment that many forget is the sun. Moderate sun exposure has been shown to help improve this condition. While the reason for this improvement is not well understood, it is believed that the vitamin D produced by the body from being in the sun is a contributing factor. The sun can also help acne if used responsibly and in moderation. Too much sun may cause adverse effects such as more acne due to an over production of sweat from sun exposure.

4) Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency seems to be a rising problem within the United States. With around 10% of people showing deficiency in this vitamin, it appears to be a serious issue throughout the country. One of the easiest ways to create vitamin D in your body is through exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is essential for many functions within your body, including improving bone and teeth strength. Bone strength is especially crucial in older populations who experience frequent fractures. Without the proper level of vitamin D in the body, bones are more likely to become fractured or broken. Even a small amount of weekly exposure to sunlight can prevent these fractures from occurring and help improve physical health. While calcium is often thought of as the nutrient most important to maintaining strength in bones and teeth; without vitamin D, nutrients cannot be absorbed into your teeth or bones.

5) Jaundice in Infants

Sometimes when a baby is first born he or she may look a little yellow. This yellow color is an indication that the child may be jaundice. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in the body due to low liver functioning. This is often common in newborns since the mother takes care of filtering the bilirubin while the child is still inside her and it may take a few days for the baby’s liver to fully take over this process. Newborn jaundice is usually not a cause for concern and can be treated by placing the baby under a special light or sunlight. This course of action should always be confirmed with a doctor or pediatrician before implementing it. The light from the sun helps to break up the bilirubin and eliminate the yellow coloring. Within two to three weeks the condition should go away.

6) Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension, can be caused by a multitude of factors including diet, genetics, and physical activity. When a person has high blood pressure they have a higher risk for an aneurysm, blood clot, or heart attack. Hypertension can usually be treated with medication or a change in lifestyle depending upon the severity of it. Another treatment being used in conjunction with diet is sunlight. People tend to have lower blood pressures during the summer than the winter due to the longer days that are present during the summer. In addition, people are more active during the summer and have the added benefit of engaging in outdoor physical activity. Exposed to the sun and exercising helps people to lower their blood pressure and become a healthier version of themselves.

7) Cancer Prevention

Most people tend to shy away from sunshine because of the known link to skin cancer. While excessive amount of sunshine without adequate protection does increase a person’s chances of developing cancer such a melanoma, current research now illustrates how sunlight can also prevent certain cancers. People who live at higher latitudes on the globe and experienced a lower amount of daylight had higher rates of cancer such as colon cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer. The correct amount of sunlight a person should expose their body to varies depending on the person. A doctor or dermatologist can be consulted when trying to find a balanced way to incorporate an appropriate amount of sun. People should use common sense and continue wearing sunscreen or a hat when in the sun for a prolonged period of time.

8) Improve Sleep

Kill two birds with one stone by relaxing in the sun and getting  a good night’s sleep. Exposure to sunlight throughout the day has been linked to a better night’s rest and a longer sleep. Sunlight helps to regulate a person’s circadian rhythm and internal clock. When this clock is thrown off, a person may experience difficulty sleeping. One common way a person’s circadian rhythm is thrown off is when a they fly to a different time zone. Sun is an indicator to the body that it is day time and the person should be active. When the sun goes down, the dark indicates to the body that it should prepare for bed. Sunshine can also help improve sleep since people tend to be more active if the sun is out. Physical activity is an easy way to improve physical health, while tiring out the body to promote a better sleep.

9) Boost Immunity

It is time to fight back against diseases and bacteria with the power of the sun. Allotting around 10 minutes each day to be in the sun may have a noticeable impact on a person’s immune system. This improvement in your immune system can be contributed to an increase in production of T cells due to the sun. T cells are responsible for fighting off infections and foreign bacteria in the body. When these levels are high, they can fight off bacteria quickly and prevent a person form exhibiting the symptoms typically associated with an illness. The production of vitamin D in the body from the sun also contributes to the boost in one’s immune system. Vitamin D is responsible for turning on key peptides that fight off bacteria in the body and stop infections before they get too serious.

10) Weight Loss

Sunlight helps to repress hunger through the release of a hormone known as serotonin. When serotonin is released in your body, it makes you feel full. This effect is best seen in the winter when people tend to eat more since the days are shorter. In the winter people have less exposure to sunlight and thus less serotonin is produced. This in turn causes people to feel hungry more often. Sunshine is an easy way to help the body eat only when it is hungry and not just when a person is feeling bored. People who regularly exercise outside can further help their body lose weight by burning calories and building muscles. These two results of working out combined with the release of serotonin, help to produce the results people have been waiting for.

11) Seasonal Affective Disorder

The winter blues is a real disorder, often called seasonal affective disorder, and can wreak havoc on people’s lives. Seasonal affective disorder occurs when the seasons change and people get less sunlight in their daily lives. Some common symptoms of this disorder include feeling tired, depression, weight gain, and low energy. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs because of a lack of sun which leads to a disruption in a person’s melatonin levels, circadian rhythm, and serotonin levels. Especially in the fall and winter when sunshine can be limited, you can beat SAD by giving yourself proper sun exposure throughout the entire year. People with severe SAD will use light therapy to mimic the sunlight in order to combat the symptoms of this disorder. Overall, this illustrates the impact sun has on the many facets of a person’s life.

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