For years now, the market for sunscreen, sunshades, sunhats, and UV-blocking clothing has been expanding. The dangers of sun exposure, namely skin aging and cancer, are everywhere you look.
But what if the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks?
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be conscious about protecting your skin when outdoors, but avoiding sun exposure isn’t the answer. The benefits of sunlight are robust, from boosting your mood to your immune system and more.
Here, we’re sharing how sunlight benefits your health and how to get more of it.
5 Sunlight Benefits
1. Sunlight Can Help Boost Your Mood
Waking up on the right side of the bed is more than just an expression. Your mood has the ability to shift your entire day, from your motivation to exercise and eat healthy, to your feelings of happiness, focus, and calmness.
Sunlight can improve your mood by increasing levels of vitamin D and serotonin. If you’re familiar with the term “seasonal depression,” which tends to plague people in Northern, cold climates, you understand this concept at a basic level. But why does this occur?
A lack of sun exposure can lead to low levels of vitamin D and less serotonin. Both vitamin D and serotonin deficiency are associated with higher levels of depression. While moderately high serotonin levels result in more positive moods and a calm yet focused mental outlook.
2. Sunlight Improves Sleep
Light is what regulates our body’s circadian rhythm. What is circadian rhythm? It’s essentially your body’s internal clock that is controlled by hormones. Those hormones, including melatonin, turn off and on when exposed to light or dark.
When you wake up in the morning, getting bright light is what shuts off melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and helps you wake up. Getting 30 minutes to an hour of sunlight each morning can not only help you feel more energized throughout the day but also help you sleep better at night. Morning sunlight benefits how quickly you fall asleep as well.
So if you’re having trouble sleeping, get outside first thing in the morning and go for a walk.
3. Sunlight Helps Build Strong Bones
When sunlight hits your skin, it triggers a photosynthetic reaction that produces vitamin D. Many people associate vitamin D with immunity. And while it certainly does increase your body’s immune response (another one of the benefits of sunlight), it also supports calcium metabolism—an essential function for strong bones.
Without sufficient vitamin D, bones will not form properly in children and osteoporosis could develop in adults.
4. Sunlight Can Encourage Weight Management
Morning sunlight benefits healthy weight as well. Independent of quality sleep, which is also correlated with weight maintenance, getting a majority of daily light exposure earlier in the day is associated with a lower BMI, according to a recent study.
A healthy BMI can help reduce blood pressure and prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is yet another reason to go for a walk outside each morning.
5. Sunlight May Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Another major benefit of vitamin D – it may help reduce the risk of some cancers. According to numerous statistics, death rates related to major cancers other than skin cancer decline the closer you get to the equator. Many serious cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer are associated with low levels of vitamin D.
How to Get More Sunlight
The great news is that sunlight is completely free and relatively easy to access. Here are a few simple ways to get more of the benefits of sunlight on a daily basis.
Go for a morning walk
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the simplest way to get more sunlight and benefit your health is to go for a walk outdoors each morning. You can elevate your mood, sleep more soundly, and may lose weight.
Open up the shades
While direct sunlight is best, you can still benefit from sunlight when inside. Bright light in your home can help support your circadian rhythm, and thus increase serotonin and improve sleep. Open up the shades first thing in the morning to let in as much light as possible.
Use a sunlight lamp
Summer makes it simple to get more sunlight. We are naturally drawn outdoors to enjoy the warm weather. But getting enough sunlight during winter is less feasible in many parts of the world. If you do live in an area where the sun shines nearly daily, take advantage of it! But if you don’t, not all is lost. Even cloudy natural light can benefit your health and a sunlight lamp can help support your natural circadian rhythm.
Supplement with Vitamin D
Another way to get some of the benefits of sunlight without the sun is to take a vitamin D supplement. As with all supplements, it’s important to discuss this first with your doctor and find a high-quality option from a company you trust.
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen
While the sun is an incredible force of nature with many benefits, it also has the power to cause skin cancer. If you’ll be in direct sunlight for a long period of time, be sure to apply and reapply SPF to prevent sunburn and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Did these tips help you understand the health benefits of the sun? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more tips, resources, and news delivered right to your inbox.