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Sun exposure has been giving a pretty terrifying reputation in recent years, but I am happy to report that living up your outdoor play time actually has some incredible effects on your mind and body.
Here are five health benefits of getting some sun exposure:
Sun Exposure Provides Vitamin D
One of my favorite podcasts – and if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I love me some podcasts! – is the BenGreenfieldFitness.com Podcast. One of his episodes, #264 in particular, inspired this post as it discussed the benefits of vitamin D specifically. Sun exposure is essentially the best, most natural, cost effective, simple and healthy source of vitamin D. Research has shown that most people don’t have enough vitamin D in their system, so rather than relying on vitamin D supplements, you can get your daily dose by taking a walk in the sunshine with at least some of your body exposed to the UV rays of the sun.
Now, of course we all have heard the warnings about getting too much sun or getting sun burnt, so you still want to be careful in really sunny areas not to over expose yourself. There are some great natural health hacks that you can use to protect your skin from sun exposure while still soaking in the rays, and Ben gets into things like lycopene and dark chocolate, so I encourage you to listen to the episode, and perhaps I’ll dedicate a post to the topic soon.
There is always the chance of seeing some wildlife sharing the sunshine with you too, and who doesn’t love a “Squirrel” moment? Taking a few minutes out of your busy life to literally stop and smell the roses will make you appreciate the little things in life. Going out to explore nature can even be an interesting educational experience. Just yesterday I learned that wasps eat ants! Finally, when you put yourself out of doors, you increase your chances of meeting new people, making new friends, and enjoying the affection of puppies that aren’t yours! Nature happens, and it is good.
Spending time outside also increases your chances of doing something physical, whether is as low key as my new favorite sport, lawn bowling, or a rough and tumble game of touch football, any movement is good for your body!
Sunshine Provides Effective, Free, Almost Instant Stress Relief
There is nothing more relaxing than the scent of grasses, trees, and flowers. Getting out for a walk, or even just laying at the beach or in a field, can have an immediate and positive affect on your stress levels, allows you to function better in your daily life. Even a half hour during your lunchtime spent out in the sun can improve your productivity and can help you have less stress at work.
You can sit on a park bench in the sunshine and meditate a bit or take bring a good book to the beach. It is natural to feel happier when basking in the glory of the sunshine, your mental state will be more relaxed, and you can process your stress better with a clear head. Try getting out in the sun every day for at least a half an hour and I’m sure you’ll notice an almost immediate stress reduction.
Sunlight Can Reduce Your Risk of Cancer & Other Disease
While you are at an increased risk of skin cancer if you burn your skin in the sun, sunshine can actually help reduce your risk of developing other cancers, especially if you choose to exercise in the sunshine. Getting optimal levels of sun exposure can reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a very real thing in our “skin cancer” paranoid society, but it is a power-house when it comes to preventing and recovering from a host of other diseases and cancers. Watch this quick video for some well-research findings from Dr. Micheal Gregor of NutritionFacts.org
Spending Time in the Sun Can Lead to Higher Quality Sleep
Have you ever noticed that when you spend the day out in the sun, even if you are being very “lazy” and doing little else but reading, chatting or even napping, you get home and you’re just wiped? Being out in the sunshine, especially if you do something relaxing or exercise in the sunshine, has been shown to improve your sleep quality. Just a half hour of sunshine per day has been found to help you get to sleep easier and will help you stay asleep longer. It really doesn’t matter what you do in the sunshine as long as you get out there and get some rays. It is, in large part, due to your natural circadian rhythm. Quality sleep has been in the news a lot lately, and has been proven to lead to a healthier life overall. Arianna Huffington recently wrote a book about sleep, and there is a great article on the Huffington Post called Sunshine Exposure Improves Quality of Sleep, Life: Study that I highly recommend for further reading.
So there are 5 great reasons to get you outside and in the sunshine. Now that you understand just how sun exposure can benefit your health, what are you going to do outside today? Share your favorite sun-time activities in the comments section below!