Benefits of Sun Exposure
In times like this that both adults and children are confined to stay at home to be safe, some of us may start to feel bored. We understand that it is safest to stay at home, but we should also know how to keep ourselves healthy. For much coveted sunny days, those who have the advantage of a garden, a yard or a safe park, stepping out of the house for a while and bringing the whole family out to get some moderate sun exposure would be very beneficial. However, we have to take into consideration all the safety measures and our social and physical distancing responsibilities.
In a landmark study, a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that a compound called nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure is released into the blood vessels as soon as sunlight touches the skin. It was found that sun exposure can not only improve health or stimulate production of vitamin D, but also prolong life. That’s because the benefits of lower blood pressure include cutting risk of heart attacks and strokes.
It is a well known fact that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorus in the body. However, emerging research also indicates there is a direct correlation between bone density and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin formed during the process of Vitamin D manufacture when sunlight hits the skin. It regulates calcium absorption. When you have higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering fractures of virtually all types. On the other hand, lower levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are associated with higher rate of all types of fractures. This is why sun exposure is especially important for bone health in older adults. Here are ten huge health benefits of moderate sun exposure we absolutely should know about.
Aside from promoting bone health and regulating vital calcium levels, scientists have now linked vitamin D with a number of functions throughout the body, including the functioning of the brain. More studies have found sunlight could help spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming, organizing and storing of memories.
Sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression common in the winter months. It is also common in people who work long hours in office buildings and hardly get out for some sun. Moderate sun exposure, however, increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain that can actually help relieve this and other forms of mild depression. That’s because on sunny days the brain produces more serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical, than on darker days.
When sunlight hits our eyes, a message is sent to the pineal gland in the brain and production of melatonin (a hormone that makes us drowsy and helps us sleep) is shut down until the sun goes down again. Your body gets a clear signal that it’s no longer night and this helps to maintain a normal circadian rhythm. When it gets dark outside, your body gets the signal again and you feel tired and drowsy at bedtime. Low levels of melatonin production at night due to overproduction during the day has been linked to poor sleep quality, especially in older adults.
Clinical research has shown Alzheimer’s patients who are exposed to the sun throughout the day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. followed by darkness at night score better on mental exams and improve some aspects of the disease. For example, one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Alzheimer’s patients exposed to bright light had fewer symptoms of depression, nighttime wakefulness, agitation and lost less function than those exposed to dim daytime lighting.
Sunlight promotes healing of skin disorders, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and other fungal skin infections.
This benefit is especially true for infants. Studies reveal the amount of sun exposure in the first few months of a baby’s life has an effect on how tall the child grows. Many cultures around the world recognize this fact and expose children to mild sun to boost growth and height.
Sun exposure can help suppress an overactive immune system, which could explain why sunlight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. And since white blood cells increase with sun exposure and they play a key role in fighting diseases and defending the body against infection, moderate sun exposure is very helpful for your immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of many cancers, especially breast and colon cancer. However, eating whole foods and getting some sun can send breast cancer into remission. This connection was first made by Drs. Frank and Cedric Garland from the University of California who observed that the incidence of colon cancer was nearly three times higher in New York than in New Mexico. Subsequent studies have since shown vitamin D supplementation produces a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer. This confirms the benefits of vitamin D and sun exposure in reducing risk of cancer.
Sunshine does have its benefits, but it’s still the number one cause of skin cancer. Experts recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily for a healthy adult.
To ensure that they produce sufficient vitamin D in their skin, babies and small children should be exposed to sunlight for 30 to 60 minutes a day. It’s enough if their face is exposed to the blue sky. Direct sunshine is not necessary.