Or maybe it only took one good sunburn to teach you a lesson.
Either way, you’re probably spending little to no time at all in the sun any longer.
Because the benefits of sunlight just don’t outweigh the dangers.
Except… what if that’s not completely true?
What if there are benefits of sunlight that you’re missing by staying out of the sun so religiously?
Because that’s what we’re here to discuss today.
The ways you’re actually harming yourself, not helping, by avoiding the sun completely – and just what you can do about it!
The True Benefits of Sunlight
1. Bone health. Vitamin D is known as “the sunlight vitamin” and that’s because it’s possible for some people to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight alone. And while vitamin D is an important nutrient for many reasons, one of the most vital is that it protects bone health. To keep bones strong and avoid osteoporosis, you know you need calcium. But what many people don’t realize is that without vitamin D, your body can’t absorb the calcium. So getting enough vitamin D is key to making the calcium work.
2. Heart health. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to heart disease. And your body uses the same vitamin D that keeps your bones strong to keep your heart healthy. So get some sun, keep track of your vitamin D levels, and protect more than your just your skin.
3. Improves mood and mental health. Your body produces serotonin, a hormone that improves mood, help keep you calm, and allows you to focus. Time spent in the sun helps boost levels of serotonin without any additional substance, just sunlight. And the longer you go without sunlight, the less serotonin your body produces. If you just don’t feel quite yourself during winter months, it could be because you’re missing this very important benefit of sunlight.
4. Lowers blood pressure. Along the lines of being calmer and happier, another benefit of sunlight is that spending time in the sun has been shown to help lower blood pressure – and not just because you’re calmer. Exposure to sunlight (but not necessarily heat) may promote the production of nitric oxide, which is a natural blood pressure reducer.
5. Sleep better. Wouldn’t you like to sleep better? Not just for a night or two, but every night? Then make sure you get out some during the day. Sunlight helps control your sleep-wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm). When you first exposure yourself to sunlight, your body recognizes this is time to be awake, alert, and functioning. So that when night comes, your body recognizes that something has changed, and it’s time to sleep. It seems silly, or too simple, but it really does work.
6. Treat, possibly even heal, diseases. Psoriasis. Eczema. Jaundice. Acne. Rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus. Irritable bowel syndrome. Thyroiditis. These are all conditions and diseases that can be treated – and sometimes healed – simply by reaping the benefits of sunlight. While research is still ongoing, preliminary results are incredibly positive.
7. Reduce the risk of cancer. That’s right – cancer. Isn’t that why you stay out of the sun in the first place? But being out in the sun a moderate amount has been linked to lower rates of several types of cancers, including skin cancer.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Now, to be very clear – this doesn’t mean that you should slather on baby oil and go out at noon, the way you probably did when you were a teenager.
There’s a reason you’ve been warned to limit your time in the sun, after all.
The problem is that, while people were told to limit their time in the sun, too many people took it too far and have started staying out of the sun entirely.
Doing so has robbed an entire generation of these benefits of sunlight.
However, there are so many variables – skin tone, geography, time of year - to be considered that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of time you should spend in the sun every day.
Here are some general guidelines that should help you walk the line between getting the benefits of sunlight and starting to cause sun damage.
- The lighter your skin, the less time you need in the sunlight. For very pale skin, no more than 10 minutes a day, in the afternoon, three times a week. Try to get sun on your arms, face, and hands. You know your skin, though. The key is to get sun exposure without burning.
- The darker your skin, the more time you’ll need to get the benefits of sunlight. Some estimates are as high as two hours a day. Try to get sun on your arms, face, and hands. You, too, know your skin. Go inside before you even feel like you’re burning.
- During winter, it’s very difficult for people in the northern two-thirds of the country to get enough sunlight to enjoy one of the key the benefits – vitamin D. A good rule is that if the shadows are longer than you are tall, you’re not producing vitamin D.
The key with sunlight, as with so much in life, is moderation. Be smart about your sun exposure, yes, but don’t feel like you have to avoid the sun altogether.
Look at everything you miss out on if you do!
It makes you wonder why we’ve only been taught the dangers, and not the benefits, of sunlight. At least now you know!