The Science of Sunshine: Why Opting Out(side) is Good for Your Health


As winter fades away in some parts of the country, schoolchildren are heading back outside for recess, college students are lounging in the quad, and businesspeople begin to eat lunch in the sun again. Here’s why you should follow their lead.

For ages, scientists and health advocates have been urging you to cover up in the sun, wear sunscreen and invest in long sleeves and hats. Although keeping yourself protected to some degree is critical– you need to keep your skin safe from skin cancers, sunburns, and everything in between, after all– the sun isn’t all bad. It keeps your sleep cycle consistent, helps keep your bones healthy, and can even help you keep weight off!

Sunlight plays a vital role in how your body functions. Increased exposure to sunlight can aid in the natural production of a whole host of natural vitamins and endorphins, which together can lead to you being healthier and happier! Sunlight releases vitamin D; a vitamin necessary for healthy bones and reduced risks of cancer, melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle and can help you sleep better, nitric oxide, which can lower your blood pressure, and serotonin, which is intricately related to your happiness and mood!

Researchers have found that the benefits of melatonin, which is naturally regulated and produced by sun exposure, extends to the maintenance of your sleep cycle. Exposing yourself to an hour of natural sunlight in the morning was shown to be the most effective way to keep a consistent sleep cycle and walking in the sun for an hour was an efficient way of losing weight and maintaining a healthy mood.

Also crucial in the regulation of a good mood is serotonin, which is produced by exposure to sunlight. Having good serotonin levels can help ward off seasonal affective disorder and boost your mood!

Perhaps the most critical vitamin from the sun is Vitamin D. This vitamin, which is naturally produced by the body in response to sunlight, has been shown to lead to healthier bones, a reduced chance of dying from heart disease, higher resistance to cancers, better results when dieting and less severe irritable bowel disease. Vitamin D can also be found in fatty foods, like meat, eggs, and some oils, as well as in many fortified foods, like breakfast cereals.

Are you experiencing springtime? Have a question or concern about sunshine? Let us know in the comments below!

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