What comes to your mind when someone tells you ‘let’s get some sun?’ What I hear is, let’s get some energy. Let’s get some strength. Let’s get some happiness. For many of us, our lives are confined indoors; inside an office and behind a computer screen. We hardly ever go outside and if we do, it’s when we’re in transit to another building. Perhaps it’s time to make a conscious decision to bask under the sun, given its numerous health and mental benefits.
One of my favourite quotes is “The sun will rise and we will try again.” I first heard it in a song called Truce by Twenty One Pilots. The sun is undoubtedly a symbol of hope. It is a chance to start again and prove yourself worthy.
Harvard Medical School recommends about five to 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This should be done twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back.
Here are the mental and health benefits of basking under the sun.
Improves mental health
The sun can boost a person’s mood and improve mental health conditions like depression. According to Healthline, exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Without exposure to sunlight, the levels of serotonin can drop, and low levels of this hormone have been linked to depression.
Depression can sometimes manifest itself as Seasonal Affective Disorder. People who live in parts of the country that have long winter nights (due to higher latitudes) and less sunlight are more likely to experience the condition. So for those of us who live in the tropics, we are blessed to have sunshine for the bigger part of the year, and we should not take it for granted.
Building strong bones
The International Osteoporosis Foundation describes the sun as the best source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our bodies to process calcium effectively and is essential for healthy bones. Dr. Marc Sorenson from Sunlight Institute says that lack of vitamin D, which is produced by sun exposure, leads to rickets, osteoporosis, osteomalacia and other bone diseases. The bones become so weakened without regular sun exposure, that the slightest movement may cause a fracture.
Cancer is one of the number one killer diseases in the world today. Exposure to sunlight has been said to reduce the risk of several cancers. It triggers the production of vitamin D which in turn has been shown to help reduce the risk of dying from breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancers. Researchers have proven that those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers than those who live where there’s more sun during the day.
However, according to Richard B. Setlow, senior biophysicist, this is limited to a brief exposure. According to him, if you get too much sun exposure for too long, you might get malignant melanoma. But if you have internal cancer this might be good.
On the other hand, the National Cancer Institute says that exposure to UV radiation causes early ageing of the skin and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. People of all ages and skin tones should limit the amount of time they spend in the sun, especially between mid-morning and late afternoon, and avoid other sources of UV radiation, such as tanning beds.
Therefore, while it is important to get some sun to trigger the production of vitamin D, the amount of time that you expose yourself to it should be controlled.
Heals some skin conditions
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology proved that exposure to sunlight alleviates symptoms of eczema by triggering the release of a compound in the skin that dampens inflammation. Further lab studies found that the chemical activated specialised immune cells, called regulatory T cells, which act to dampen the ongoing inflammatory immune response.
It also helps to treat psoriasis by slowing the rate of skin cell growth and easing the symptoms. However, you must also be careful not to over-expose yourself because sunlight has also been linked to skin problems such as ageing skin, actinic keratoses, skin cancers, and even allergic reactions.
Improves heart health
Heart conditions are very common in our world today. The good news is, sunlight can improve your heart health. Research has proven that sunshine has numerous cardiovascular benefits. When sunlight hits our skin, a compound called nitric oxide is released into our blood vessels. Nitric oxide can help to lower blood pressure.
According to the article mentioned above, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, the metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes are major causes of morbidity and mortality, and while excessive sun exposure carries real risks, there would seem to be no real substitutes for regular small doses of sunshine onto our bodies. What Should You Do to Keep Your Heart Healthy?
If you are battling with weight issues, then this might just be a natural way of dealing with it. A study conducted at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada revealed that one of the reasons for winter weight gain was the absence of sunlight. In this study, the researchers found that subcutaneous white adipose tissue, which, is the major fat depot in humans helps to regulate the entire body’s metabolism. White fat stores calories that are ideally burned for energy. So when it is dysfunctional it can lead to disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The researchers found that white fat tends to shrink under the effect of the sun’s so-called blue light.
Here are a few recommendations to reduce the risk of skin damage while basking under the sun:
- Stay in the shade
- Use sunscreen – 5 Ways You Are Making Your Sunscreen Less Effective Without Even Realizing It
- Wear a hat –
- Wear sunglasses – 7 Sunglasses Styles To Try For That Hot Look