Let the Sun in—but Safely
Sunshine sometimes gets a bad rap. While we often talk about how to protect ourselves from overexposure to the sun and its rays, we should also focus on the many health benefits the sun provides.
5 Extraordinary Benefits of Sunshine
1. Sunlight can improve mood. We know how good it feels to be in the sun on a warm day. But that good feeling also may be due to the release of the hormone serotonin in the brain. That release is believed to be triggered by sunlight. Serotonin boosts moods and helps us feel focused and relaxed. Deficiencies of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of depression, including one with a seasonal pattern (previously known as SAD or seasonal affective disorder).
2. Sunlight provides Vitamin D, a vitamin your body uses to ensure healthy bones, normal brain functioning and fighting infection. In addition to the sun, Vitamin D comes from certain foods (such as salmon, herring, egg yolks and mushrooms) and also is available in supplements. Despite the variety of ways to get Vitamin D, 40 percent of Americans still don’t have enough.
3. Time in the sun can prevent certain cancers. Unprotected exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer, but a lack of exposure to sun may lead to other types of cancers. Researchers found people who lived in areas with less sun had a higher risk of colon cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Scientists believe Vitamin D could play a role in decreasing the risk of certain cancers, with sunlight being key in the increase in production of that chemical.
4. Sun exposure can help heal skin conditions and other illnesses. Sunshine and light therapy have been used to treat psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and acne. UVA radiation also has been used for rickets, vitiligo and lupus vulgaris. Researchers are looking at potential sun treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, too.
5. Sun exposure helps you sleep better. Not only does sun exposure make you more likely to be physically active, it also can help you sleep better. A study showed that employees with more natural light in their offices slept longer than employees who did not have natural light exposure.
Enjoy the Sun—but Use Protection
Even with the benefits of sun exposure, too much sun can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. To minimize the risks:
- Use sunscreen, apply it liberally 30 minutes before sun exposure and re-apply it every two hours you’re out in the sun.
- Wear sun protective clothing, which may include a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, hat and sunglasses.
- Take a break from the sun in a shaded area.
- Consider avoiding prolonged sun exposure between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Remember to use protection even on cloudy days.
The sun makes us feel good, has plenty of health benefits and should be enjoyed. By taking some smart precautions to minimize damage, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
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