The benefits of getting sunlight every day

Habitomic Journalist
Habitomic Journalist

For decades, we have been shying away from the sun, given its ties to skin cancer and premature aging. But a growing body of scientific research suggests that completely shunning sunlight isn’t such a good idea.

Many people ask the question: how much is “enough”? Researchers don’t always have an exact measurement for how long you should stay outside to reap the benefits of sunlight. But defining an excess amount of sun exposure depends on your skin type and how direct the sun’s rays are.

People with fair skin typically get a sunburn more quickly than those with darker skin. Also, you’re more likely to get a sunburn going outside when the sun’s rays are more direct. This usually takes place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

But generally, experts say 5 minutes to 30 minutes a day is enough to get some benefits of sun exposure without risking damage. If you wear sunscreen, you can stay out longer. You’ll want to consult with your health professional to determine what’s best for you.

Here is why you should soak up some sunshine every day:

1. Improves energy levels.

We know that exposure to sunlight improves serotonin levels, which boosts mood and focus. If you’re in a good mood, your energy levels are higher, which means you’re more productive. When you don’t get that exposure to the sunlight, your serotonin levels fall, which means your energy and mood decrease.

2. Improves sleep.

“The brighter your daylight exposure, the more melatonin you produce at night,” says Dr. Mithu Storoni, physician, researcher, and author of Stress-Proof. Melatonin is a type of hormone that’s “produced by the pineal gland in the brain during darkness at night”, she explains.

Additionally, the amount of daylight exposure you get is crucial in maintaining a normal circadian rhythm.

3. Promotes bone growth.

Vitamin D is a hormone that promotes calcium absorption and is essential for bone growth and formation.

“The Vitamin D found in our body needs activation. The sun helps to convert inactive Vitamin D levels to active,” explains Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face twice or thrice a week is enough to reap the vitamin D-boosting benefits of the sun.

4. Helps strengthen the immune system.

“Strong association studies have found that Vitamin D is also very important in signaling the immune system. It appears to be necessary for adequate amounts to turn on your ability to survey the rest of your cells,” says Dr. Roizen. Since regular sun exposure is one of the most robust ways to up active Vitamin-D levels in your body, it can help beef up your immune system as well. “Inadequate levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased rate of infection, cancer, and mortality rate after surgery,” he adds.

5. Lowers blood pressure.

One study revealed that when exposed to sunlight, your body naturally releases nitric oxide, a natural compound that helps lower your blood pressure. This was important because, at that time, it was believed that the only health benefit of sun exposure was an increase in vitamin D production. Lower blood pressure levels help cut down the risk of stroke and heart disease.

6. May reduce the risk of cancer.

Safe sun exposure may protect you from skin cancer. According to a study published in the Lancet Journal, the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet radiation of short wavelength (UVB) has been associated with a decreased risk of melanoma.

Although excess sunlight can contribute to skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight actually has preventive benefits when it comes to cancer.

According to researchers, those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers than those who live where there’s more sun during the day. An adequate amount of sunlight has also been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers (including colon, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancer), suggests a study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.

7. Promotes weight loss.

The latest research reveals that basking in morning sunshine can reduce body fat and help you shed those extra pounds.

The study suggests that as little as 20 to 30 minutes of early morning sun exposure is sufficient for you to lower your Body Mass Index (BMI) and trim your waistline.

8. Strengthens immunity.

Another thing that Vitamin D is necessary for is to strengthen your immune system. If your immune system is healthy, you can naturally fight off illness and infections, some forms of cancer, and even help you recover after surgery.

9. Improves eye health.

Some studies have shown that moderate sun exposure, especially as a teen and young adult, can help reduce your chances of nearsightedness.

10. Improves brain function.

Vitamin D is also linked to brain functioning. One study revealed that patients who had low brain functioning also had low vitamin D levels. However, when exposed to sunlight, nerve cell growth increases in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for creating, organizing, and storing memories.

11. Causes longer life.

One study revealed that those who spent more time in the sun lived 6 months to 2 years longer, on average than those who didn’t spend much time outside. However, there does need to be more research in this area to confirm this idea.

12. It heals skin conditions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sun exposure might help treat several skin conditions, too. Doctors have recommended UV radiation exposure to treat:

  • psoriasis
  • eczema
  • jaundice
  • acne

13. Decreases stress.

In addition to helping you sleep, melatonin helps to decrease your stress levels. Plus, since you’re typically doing something physical when you’re outside, the extra exercise can help you burn off stress.

How to increase your sun exposure

There are some ways to increase the amount of sun you’re being exposed to daily.

Studies have shown that morning sun exposure is best because it signals your body to stop producing melatonin. While the UVB rays can’t get through a window to stimulate vitamin D production, you should still at least sit by a window while you eat breakfast.

  • Take a sun break.

To increase your vitamin D levels, make it a point to step outside for at least 15 minutes a day. The best time to do this is in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest, keeping in mind that your arms, legs, and torso absorb the most sun and your hands and face absorb the least.

Also, you can walk, run, meditate, and listen to music or podcast in the sunlight.

Note that while there are a lot of good reasons to get sun, the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation can penetrate the skin and damage cell DNA. This can lead to skin cancer.

But if you’re going to be outside for more than 15 minutes, it’s a good idea to protect your skin. You can do that by applying sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Wearing a protective hat and shirt can also help.