Winter weather can be a drag for the body both mentally and physically. It’s important to make exposure to natural sunlight a part of a healthy daily routine. Sunlight has vast health benefits that can improve your mental state, mental clarity, look and feel of skin and overall health that extend beyond just improving vitamin D.
Improving Certain Cancers
Sunlight’s benefits are highly debated due to links with premature aging and skin cancer but, it shouldn’t be shunned completely. A study was conducted at the University of California, San Diego, where researchers combined data from other surveys of satellite measurements of sunlight and cloud during the winter from 15 countries to estimate the serum level of vitamin D metabolite of people living in 177 countries. The compilation of data revealed a link between low vitamin D levels and risk of colorectal and breast cancer. According to the researchers, raising the serum levels was found to be ideal for cancer prevention, which means 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year with sufficient exposure to sunlight.
According to Dr. Cedric Garlan, DrPh, of UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moore’s Cancer Center said, “This could be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and short intervals – 10 to 15 minutes a day – in the sun.”
The FDA’s recommended levels of daily vitamin D is 1,000 IUs, the equivalent of 10-15 minutes of sun exposure.
Daily, specifically morning sunlight, can help maintain a normal circadian rhythm – your body’s sleep-wake cycle. It is dependent on morning sunlight to help improve sleep at night. Proper sunlight or light after a person wakes will ensure that the body’s sleep wake cycle is in sync. The less morning light a person is exposed to, the more difficult it is to sleep and wake at the body’s set times.
Regular sunlight exposure can naturally increase the serotonin levels in the body making a person more alert and active throughout the day. In an article published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), exposure to bright light is seen as an approach to increase serotonin without the use of drugs. The positive correlation between the development of serotonin and the hours of sunlight during the day was seen in healthy volunteers. In a sample size of 101 healthy men, researchers found that turnover of serotonin in the brain was lowest during the winter whereas the production rate of serotonin was highest when the subjects stayed in the sunlight longer.
Some other benefits of natural sunlight include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Provides a sufficient supply of vitamin D
- Helps to build strong bones
- Can help improve or heal some skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, jaundice or acne.
Practicing safe sun exposure is important to keep in mind when making regular sunlight a part of a healthy routine. Moderation is key. The sun is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Exposing the body to sunlight in 5 to 15 min intervals is recommended. For longer periods of time it is advised to apply a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF to protect against skin cancer and cell DNA damage.
During the winter, getting regular sun exposure in moderation will help fight off those winter blues and can help provide some amazing health benefits for the body too!