Seize the Sunshine for Better Health

Whether cold weather has driven you south or the sun has finally peeked through the winter clouds, seize the day and get outdoors to soak up the rays while you can.   We hear a lot about protecting ourselves from the harmful rays of the sun but there are also many health benefits to sunshine.

In regions that don’t get much sunlight during the winter, it’s important to take advantage of precious moments when the sun is shining to spend time outdoors.  Low vitamin D levels have been linked with an increase in the risk for colorectal and breast cancer.  The Food and Drug Administration recommends 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily, the equivalent to 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.   Exposure to sunlight may also help regulate weight, maintain bone mass, and even offer protection against cognitive decline.

In addition to protecting your health, exposure to daylight can also help regulate circadian rhythms resulting in a better night’s sleep.   To keep your sleep-wake cycle in functioning properly, try to go outside in the morning after you wake up to get some natural sunlight or at least open blinds or drapes to let the light inside.

The grey, dark days of winter can sometime lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that may be counteracted with exposure to sunlight which can increase serotonin levels in the body.  Studies have found that regular sunlight exposure can also help people feel more active and alert.

Ultraviolet rays may also help lower blood pressure.  In a study from Edinburgh University, volunteers were exposed to heat and UV rays; those who received UV exposure demonstrated a significant drop in blood pressure.

The take-away from all this research?  If it’s sunny where you are right now, stop what you are doing and go for a walk outdoors.  You will feel better, get some exercise and in the process could be doing so much more for your overall health.