The benefits of sun may outweigh the risks it may bear for our physical well-being, as research has shown that underexposure to sun may carry significant risks, similar to smoking, obesity, and being sedentary. However, it is important to also know the timing and duration of exposure to sunlight. In general, it is recommended to have about 10 to 20 minutes of exposure on non-sunscreened skin every day to avoid sunburn. On this week's journal, we will be explaining how sun exposure can give benefits for your physical health. Read on!
1. Maintains bone health
While Vitamin D is found in fatty fish like salmon and in fortified dairy products, it is also naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sun, triggering a reaction that makes vitamin D from cholesterol. Vitamin D stimulates the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus in the body, which is essential for bone health. Research have also shown that there is a direct correlation between bone density and vitamin D3. When you have higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering bone fractures. This is why sun exposure is especially important for bone health in older adults.
Aside from supporting bone health, Vitamin D also has some important functions in the body. It promotes reduced inflammation and modulates cell growth. Since it’s very hard to get enough from food sources alone, the sun is the best natural source of Vitamin D. People that are older or overweight also have trouble naturally producing enough vitamin D.
2. Improves brain function
Vitamin D also has numerous benefits throughout the body, including functioning of the brain. A study has shown that when a person has lower vitamin D levels, cognitive function is also reduced. Aside from that, more studies have found that sunlight could help spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming, organizing and storing of memories.
3. Improves sleep quality
When you are exposed to sunlight frequently, your internal body clock or circadian rhythm is functioning well and helps your body to properly cue the time to wake up or sleep at night. Exposure to bright natural light via the sun tells your body that it's daytime, which signals your brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. Low levels of melatonin production at night due to overproduction during the day has been linked to poor sleep quality, especially in older adults. Moreover, sunlight exposure also triggers serotonin production in the body to boost your mood and help you get more restful sleep at night.
4. Lowers blood pressure
As soon as the skin is exposed to sunlight, a compound called nitric oxide is released into the blood vessels, which is an important compound that helps lower blood pressure. This finding extends the knowledge of sunlight health benefits, aside from stimulating production of vitamin D.
5. Heals skin disorders
Sunlight exposure may also promote healing of skin disorders, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and other fungal skin infections. While sun exposure has a therapeutic effect on the skin and sunlight has been successfully used to treat skin disorders, this alternative treatment method should be done under medical supervision to prevent negative side-effects of UV radiation and to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
6. Enhances the immune system
Sun exposure can also help suppress an overactive immune system, which could explain why sunlight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Since sun exposure also helps increase white blood cells which plays a key role in fighting diseases and defending the body against infection, moderate sun exposure is very helpful for your immune system.
7. Helps reduce risk of certain cancer
While sunlight exposure is often associated to increased chances of skin cancer, a number of studies have shown associations between sun exposure and lower risks of colorectal, prostate, breast cancer, as well as lymphoma. This happens because when the body is deficient of Vitamin D, the risk of contracting various cancer increases.