Healthy Life  |  Published February 15, 2023

Soak up the Sun! The Healthy Benefits of Sunshine

A regular dose of sunshine positively affects your mental and physical health and improves sleep.

It’s the summer in the south and what better time to talk about the benefits of sunshine and getting outside this time of year! Spending time in the sun is good for your physical and mental health. The sun boosts your body’s level of vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin,” and helps you sleep at night. Getting a good night’s sleep is linked to a long list of other health benefits. Sunshine also can help your mood, reduce stress, and combat seasonal affective disorder and some symptoms of depression.

Here are a few other benefits gained through just 10 minutes a day of the sun’s golden rays: 

  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium for strong bones. This lowers your risk of bone diseases, fractures and osteoporosis. 
  • Vitamin D improves immune function. This helps prevent viral infections.
  • Levels of serotonin – which regulates your body’s appetite, sleep, memory and mood – are higher in summer due to time in the sun.
  • High vitamin D levels can reduce high blood pressure. 
  • The sun’s warmth improves blood circulation. This may explain why people living in areas with less sun exposure have up to 60 percent higher risk of strokes.
  • High levels of vitamin D can decrease your risk of Type 2 diabetes. 
  • A few studies link high levels of vitamin D to improved eye health. This includes fewer cataracts and lowered risk of macular degeneration. 
  • Low levels of vitamin D are linked to cancer and diseases of the brain and heart. Exposure to sunlight can decrease your risk.
  • Studies show high survival rates for breast, colon and rectal cancer patients who had high levels of vitamin D when they were diagnosed.
  • Studies show sun exposure helps metabolism. Low metabolism makes weight loss difficult.
  • Those with mild cases of skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema and acne, may find limited amounts of direct sunlight helpful.

Many people combine their time in the sun with exercise. Activities as simple as gardening or taking a relaxing stroll are great ways to get your body moving. If you choose to lounge around while soaking in the sun, you will still reap plenty of benefits. In August, we may stay indoors to beat the heat. Find time in the early morning or evening to enjoy a few rays. As we enter fall and winter, continue to spend at least 10 minutes a day in the sunshine. Your body will thank you for it!

Important note: Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. It’s important to use sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or greater, but remember sunscreen doesn’t block 100 percent of the sun’s unhealthy rays. Those with fair skin typically need to limit exposure and use sunscreens with higher UVA protection. Regardless of your complexion, avoid prolonged exposure during the hottest time of day. Find shade if you need to be outside a long time.

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