The benefits of sunshine for our health are huge—from reducing chronic illness, to improving mood, increasing the absorption of calcium and resetting our circadian rhythm. Getting in just a few minutes of regular exposure each week can be greatly beneficial to our mental and physical health and quality of life by ensuring we are getting sufficient vitamin D.
In an era when we’re told to cover our bodies and faces with sunscreen to avoid damage, we forget that sunshine actually has some amazing beneficial effects for our health—both physically and mentally that can’t be denied.
Of course, I’m not suggesting anyone go out and lay out in the sun for hours a day without protection, but a lack of sun exposure can negatively impact our health, while a few minutes of exposure of sunshine on your unprotected skin actually can have amazing benefits.
From my own personal experience, I know just how impactful sunshine is for my mental health. After a slew of grey, snowy days, a day of sunshine has me motivated, exercising and generally thinking more positively. It’s wild that just that small change in the weather can have such a huge impact on my outlook.
I remember those winter months when we lived in Chicago where we would go weeks, yes actual weeks without a glimpse of the sun. I’d get totally bummed out, unmotivated and uninspired.
Know the feeling?
On those gorgeous sunny days though? As that natural sunlight hits your skin, you just feel better! Now that we live in Denver, our winters are peppered with super sunny days that bring me back to life.
Personally, sunny day make me feel like a new woman. I make healthier choices, am more active, more productive, happier and generally sleep better too. While it might seem like it’s all mental, sunshine and vitamin D play a very very important in our health too.
What’s even crazier is that a huge percentage of Americans are actually vitamin D deficient. While you can take a supplement, getting it from the natural source is better and it doesn’t take much to get it.
Right now, it seems like there’s a trend to stay out of the sun. Yes, too much exposure can be bad, but not enough is detrimental as well. It’s a balance (like most things when it comes to health!). I fully support wearing SPF, especially on your face (I wear this one or this one every single day), but I also know that getting that precious vitamin D is essential to keeping my body functioning at its best.
So, let’s talk about some of the benefits of sunshine on our health.
The benefits of sun exposure are wide and so powerful! You probably already know that sunshine can positively impact your mood, but did you know that it can do so much more for our long-term health as well? Read on to learn more about the health benefits of vitamin D, aka sunshine!
If you’re not sure how your levels of vitamin D are looking, you can always request bloodwork at your next doctor’s appointment to make sure your vitamin D levels are in a good range. If you find out you have a vitamin D deficiency, these natural tips can help you boost your vitamin D levels.
This is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice, obviously I am not a doctor, so if you have any concerns, please check with your doctor.
10 Benefits Of Sunlight For Your Health
There are so many incredible benefits of sunshine for our health. Whether you’re looking to improve your physical or mental health, getting adequate UV exposure (without overdoing it), can greatly impact your overall health.
1. Vitamin D Production
When sunlight hits our skin, vitamin D is made from cholesterol in our skin, according to this article. UVB rays provide the energy that triggers the synthesis of this vital vitamin in our bodies.
If you are vitamin D deficient, you can take a vitamin D supplement, but very few foods are rich in vitamin D, so getting your dose from the sun is your best bet for keeping your levels of vitamin D optimal.
2. Improves Sleep & Resets our Circadian Rhythm
I struggled with sleep quality a lot after my first son was born, even after he was sleeping, and sun exposure was a huge help in getting my circadian rhythm balanced again. Getting just 5 minutes of sunshine shortly after you wake up can be so helpful in resetting your bodies natural rhythm and can make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Our bodies produce different hormones in reaction to light and darkness. Sunlight triggers our bodies to produce higher levels of serotonin which helps boost your mood, while darkness triggers melatonin which makes us sleepy and thus fall asleep. When you don’t have enough sun exposure, this hormone balance can get thrown off.
Another reason why you should avoid bright light or blue light at night that trigger that area of your brain to wake up! Dim lights and candles can also help reset your sleep patterns.
3. Boosts Immunity
One of the best benefits of sunshine in my opinion! Wonder why you get sick less in summer than in winter? Turns out sunshine plays a part. Sunshine stimulates vitamin D and T cells which give your immune system a major boost according to this article.
According to this article, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis have been linked to a vitamin D deficiency. They also noticed that as you got further away from the equator, the number of autoimmune conditions went up.
I also find that I’m more motivated to eat healthy and exercise when the sun is shining, which can also contribute to your immune system function.
4. Boost your Mood, Memory & Focus
I mentioned this earlier, but sunlight triggers our bodies to produce serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood. I’m sure you have noticed this on sunny days too—you simply feel happier!
I swear, my brain just does not function as well on grey, cloudy days. Sometimes I even feel sluggish and foggy. Because sunshine helps create more vitamin D and serotonin in our bodies, we’re able to get better, more restful sleep quality that can lead to better focus and memory during the day.
5. Strengthens Bones
Another one of the benefits of sunshine is that it can help with the absorption of calcium. Which means Vitamin D is essential for bone health. Without it, our bodies cannot absorb calcium, and without calcium, our bones are weakened. To ensure healthy bones, make sure you’re getting your regular dose of sunshine.
Adequate sun exposure can also help protect against chronic diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis.
6. Lowers Risk of Cancer
While too much sunlight and UV radiation can contribute to skin cancer, just enough sun can positively impact other types of cancers. It can reduce your risk of certain types of cancer and increase survival rates as well according to this article.
7. Fights Depression
When you don’t get enough sunlight, your serotonin levels can drop which can lead to depression. This is even more common in the winter when we don’t get as much sunlight and can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder. I personally notice this big time in the winter.
Getting a few days of sunshine, or taking a vacation somewhere warm and sunny can change your mood and pull you out of those depressing feelings. Of course, this isn’t a cure all for depression, so speak with your doctor if you’re struggling.
8. Heals Skin Conditions
Sunlight could actually help skin issues likes eczema, psoriasis, jaundice and even acne by bringing immune cells closer to the surface. Of course, if you’re exposing your face, be careful to limit your exposure!
I find that my kids (and my own) skin issues greatly subside in the summer when we’re spending more time outside.
9. Lower Blood Pressure
This article states that over 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, but what if one of the best cures is simply getting more sunshine? Exposure to sunlight can actually lower your blood pressure and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke according to this study.
I would also guess that getting outside in nature can help regulate your blood pressure naturally and being out in the sun will definitely mean you’re outside in nature!
10. Helps You Lose Weight
In this study, researchers discovered that regular sun exposure the blue light hits fat cells, it doesn’t allow for cells to store as much fat. It goes onto explain why winter weight gain is more common, and you guessed it—it’s linked to the sun.
Pretty wild, eh?
4 Tips for Healthy Sun Exposure
Limit Your Sun Exposure
When you’re wearing clothing and SPF, your body isn’t able to make vitamin D. That’s why staying completely out of the sun can actually be bad for your health.
Aim for 15 minutes of exposure several times a week. Depending on your skin type, you may be able to stay out in the sun longer—lighter skin types don’t need as much sun as dark skin types.
Instead of going out during peak sunlight hours, aim to go out in the mid-morning when rays aren’t as strong and you’re less likely to have any damaging effects.
Use Safer Sun Protection
While getting some rays can be beneficial, sun protection should not be overlooked! Especially if you have lighter skin. Excessive sun exposure is a skin cancer risk so you always want to be smart.
In recent years, researchers have learned that certain ingredients in SPF are actually harmful to our bodies and very harmful to coral reefs. Beaches around the world have banned sunscreens containing the ingredient oxybenzone because it’s killing the natural habits of fish, and underwater creatures.
Opt for a mineral sunscreen, and make sure you’re applying sunscreen every 2 hours when you plan on being in the sun for extended periods of time, especially if you’ll be swimming or sweating.
RELATED: 3 Daily Skincare Non-Negotiables
Keep your Face Covered
I’m all about protecting the skin on your face no matter what—mostly because I didn’t do this when I was in high school and college and I now have dark spots and melasma to thank for it.
I always keep my face covered with a ball cap or wide-brimmed hat, but will let me legs, arms and sometimes my stomach be exposed to absorb those beneficial rays.
Sun Exposure App
Download an app like Sun Index to figure out how much daytime exposure you need based on the UV index of where you live. It takes into consideration how strong the sun is in your location and how much sunlight you need to get your daily dose of vitamin D. It’s helpful and keeps you from guessing!
Know that you know that sunlight helps with the production of vitamin D and that just a few minutes of sun exposure several times a week can make a huge impact on your health, it’s time to get out there. One of the easiest ways to get that natural light is to get out for regular brisk walks a few times a week, or even pop out into your backyard during your lunch break for those who work at home to catch some direct sunlight.
If this isn’t enough to boost your vitamin D production, you can always use add vitamin D supplementation in the form of liquid drops. I hope you enjoy these positive effects of sunlight on your health and start incorporating outdoor sun exposure into your weekly routine.