Summer is in full force and the warm weather is everywhere, which means some of our favorite activities are back!
The calendar fills up with pool days, walks in the park, trips to the local ice cream shop, hikes, family vacations, and school-free weeks. The return of the warmth entices us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, but the constant reminder of protecting your skin from the sun is ever present in the back of our minds. Although the sun may get a bad rap due to the nasty burns it can cause if we aren’t careful, there are actually many health benefits that result from spending time in the sunshine!
Good Source of Vitamin D
Did you know that sun exposure for at least 15-30 minutes, especially around midday, produces vitamin D within the body? Vitamin D is an essential nutrient in the body and plays a vital role in calcium absorption, bone health, and immune system function, so ensuring the sun’s rays hit our skin to start the vitamin D production process is beneficial to our overall health. Low levels of this vitamin lead to symptoms such as fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness or aches, and low mood. No wonder this vitamin is dubbed the “sunshine vitamin!”
Ensures a Good Night’s Sleep
Spending time in the sun during daytime hours also ensures we get that much needed sleep once our head hits the pillow at night. Our sleep, along with hormone production, body temperature, and digestion, is regulated by what is known as the circadian rhythm. This rhythm ensures that certain sleep hormones like melatonin are produced at appropriate times and amounts so that if any dysregulation is present, your sleep will be negatively impacted which is cause for concern since sleep plays a vital role in our overall health and disease prevention.
So get out into the sun! Spending most of the day outdoors or, better yet, spending full days outside on a camping trip, can reset your circadian rhythm resulting in a healthier sleep schedule.
Helps Weight Management
Not only does the warm weather provide more opportunity for outdoor physical activity, some studies show that regular sunlight actually helps fat cells sitting beneath the skin to shrink in size, thus reducing the amount of fat being stored within those cells.
Although more research is still needed to observe the full cellular impact, we can still get moving outdoors to not only improve our cells, but increase our overall caloric burn as well. More movement alone aids in managing body weight and metabolic efficiency, so doing activity in the sun is just an added bonus for your body.
Uplifts Overall Mood
Yes, the sun can make us happy! When the sunlight hits our skin, our brain is triggered to release a “happy” hormone called serotonin. When levels of this hormone rise, we experience a boost in our overall mood which helps us feel more calm, happy, and focused.
Studies even show that “among depressed participants, a dose-response relationship was found between sunlight exposure and cognitive function [mood, serotonin, and melatonin production], with lower levels of sunlight associated with impaired cognitive status.” So if we are ever down in the dumps, we should focus on adding some sunshine to help brighten our day!
The moral of the story is that the sun isn’t to be fully feared and avoided. Although sun safety measures should still be implemented to ensure the harmful effects of too much sun time are prevented, regular time outdoors does indeed have a positive impact on our overall health both physically and mentally. We should enjoy those walks to the park or the family camping trips this summer…our bodies will thank us for the added time in the sunshine.