Health benefits of soaking up the sun, and how much exposure is safe

Humans are diurnal, which means exposure to natural light is crucial to our well-being. Mental and physical health gets supported by viewing light through the eyes which then gets transmitted to all parts of the body.

Sitting in the sun, or even exposure to natural sunlight on a daily basis, has more benefits than just helping boost vitamin D levels.

Recently, Sonali Bendre and Shilpa Shetty had shared pictures on their Instagram, wherein they were seen soaking up some winter sun.

While the right amount of sun exposure depends on skin type, age, health history, your diet, and of course, where you live, a general 5-15 minutes is great if you want to reap multiple benefits. Don’t forget to load up on the sunscreen and wear sunglasses.

Here are some benefits of it, beyond just spiking vitamin D levels in the body.

Better sleep

A 2014 study by the National Library of Medicine titled Optimal Schedules of Light Exposure for Rapidly Correcting Circadian Misalignment found the best way to adjust to a new time zone is by exposing yourself to the sunlight in the morning. It helps keep your circadian rhythm in harmony as natural light signals your body to wake up and sets your internal clock in motion. This, in turn, also helps you sleep at night as melatonin, triggered by darkness, is released.

Weight loss

Exposure to sunlight in the AM has also been associated with a lower body mass index, according to a 2014 study published in Plos One journal, titled ‘Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults‘. Mass index is a measure that takes weight and height into account. This was also attributed to better sleep cycles which is important in one’s weight loss and management journey. One of the best ways to burn calories as well as get some sun is to take your workout outdoors in the morning, or going for a brisk walk.

Emotional well-being

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to lack of sun during long, cold winters is one of the strongest examples of the fact that sunlight is an important factor that impacts our emotional well-being. The serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood, triggered by sunlight helps keep you focused, energised. This is one of the reasons phototherapy, or light therapy, is considered one of the major treatments for depression with seasonal pattern.

Eye health

Getting moderate amount of light during teen and young adult years has been proven to lessen the risks of near-sightedness, says a 2016 study published by Michigan State University titled The Benefit of Daylight for Our Eyesight. 

Protection against certain cancers

Although excessive exposure to sunlight without the protection of sunscreen can contribute to skin cancer, a moderate amount of sunlight has been proven to to have preventative benefits. A 2008 study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Study of Nephrology titled Vitamin D and Sunlight: Strategies for Cancer Prevention and Other Health Benefits states that those living in regions with more sunlight through the day are less likely to have colon cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Skin issues

Doctors attribute three primary types of skin cancer — melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — with excessive sun exposure. But, according to WHO, skin exposure is recommended by doctors for the treatment of certain skin issues like psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, acne and vitiligo.

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