It always feels better when the sun is shining; people’s moods improve, they feel healthier, and there is more chance to go outside and get fit and active, as well as doing activities that are enjoyable. However, although the sun might make us feel great, there are some downsides too; UV rays are dangerous and can cause cancer, as well as burn the skin, sometimes to a level where scarring is left behind.
Yet despite the dangers, scientists have discovered that getting out in the sunshine, or at least having a good amount of sunlight in our homes and workspaces, is good for you – in moderation and with the right safety precautions attached. So just what are the health benefits of sunlight? Read on to find out.
When you get enough sunshine in your life, your body will start to produce more melatonin, and this is the hormone that helps you sleep better. Although the body only starts producing this hormone when the sun goes down, and it’s dark – this is why most people stay up later in the lighter summer months – the more sunshine you can get during the day, the more will be produced, and the easier it will be to get to sleep.
Add to this the fact that if you’ve been outside, you’ll probably have been much more active than if you were inside, and you can be sure of a good night’s sleep.
We’ve already mentioned how the sun often makes people feel generally happier and brighter, and this is true, but the fact that being in sunlight can also reduce stress makes this phenomenon even more likely to come to fruition. Melatonin is useful for good sleep, but it is also helpful when it comes to de-stressing. With better hormone regulation, thanks to the sunshine, you’ll feel less stressed.
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Maintains Strong Bones
Vitamin D is one of the essential vitamins our bodies need to function at their best. Vitamin D specifically helps to create stronger bones, but often we just don’t get enough of it -it’s the one vitamin that most people lack.
However, since vitamin D comes from sunlight, just going outside for ten to fifteen minutes a day and enjoying the sunshine means we can get a good top-up of this vitamin, and that means we’re healthier all over. Many people also opt for UV protection contact lenses to help keep their eyes healthy in the sun too. Despite this, you can still get enough vitamin D to make a difference, so it’s certainly worth doing.
Helps Keep The Weight Off
Although we still don’t exactly understand the correlation, it would seem that if you go outside for around half an hour after 8am and before noon, you’ll more easily lose weight. Of course, this needs to be combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, but studies have shown that those who spend that much time outside each morning appear to be able to lose weight (and keep the weight off) much more easily than those who stay inside.
Fights Off Depression
It’s not all in your mind; there’s a scientific explanation for why being outside in the light makes you feel better. Serotonin, a hormone that improves mood and concentration, is increased in the body when exposed to sunlight. Increased exposure to natural light may help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, which is characterized by a shift in mood that happens throughout the autumn and winter seasons when there are fewer hours of sunshine.
Although it’s clear that sunshine has a number of benefits associated with it, it can also be hugely dangerous and even fatal – the UV light from sunshine can cause cancer, and it can also be responsible (along with heat) for sunstroke and dehydration.
If you want to take advantage of the sun, you must also be careful. Be sure to cover up as much as possible by dressing in layers. Wide-brimmed hats protect more than just your face, including your ears and scalp, from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation, which may cause eye disorders such as cataracts. Always make sure that whatever sunglasses you choose offer at least 99 percent protection from the sun’s rays; as long as you look for this, you don’t have to spend a lot on sunglasses to get better protection. In as little as 15 minutes, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause serious damage to your skin. Regardless of whether it’s cloudy outside, it’s important to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before venturing out into the sun to keep your skin protected. When used in conjunction with other sun protection strategies, such as those listed above, sunscreen is highly effective.