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Today is the second day of daylight savings time here in Southern California and since I’m typically an early riser, I’m enjoying the little extra jolt of sunshine in my day. I love the sunshine and since I live in So Cal, I get access to way more of it than most.
Many of us have come to fear sunshine because of it’s association with an increased risk for skin cancer. But if you manage your exposure, you can enjoy the health benefits of sunshine without a lot of risk. Some researchers recommend daily sun exposure for about half the time it would normally take you to get a sunburn. Others recommend that you spend 15 minutes in the sun each day without sunblock or sunglasses (the sun’s rays come through they eyes to stimulate the pituitary gland and helps control hormone production in other glands). A good way to get this 15 minutes is to combine it with little bits of exercise throughout the day like parking your car a little further from your destination, going for 10 minute walk breaks throughout the day or walking a few blocks to a lunch destination.
There are lots and lots of health benefits to sunshine. Here are just a few:
Promotes Better Sleep: Daily access to sunshine helps to regulate your circadian cycles. This makes it easier for you to fall and stay asleep.
Reduces Cancer Risk: The Vitamin D you get from sunshine has been shown to reduce risks of colon, breast, prostate and rectal cancers. And higher Vitamin D levels in the bloodstream seem to increase your likelihood of surviving a cancer diagnosis.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels: Cholesterol that lies under the skin is turned into Vitamin D3 which both increases the level of this important vitamin in your body and can significantly lower cholesterol levels.
Strengthens Immune System: Sun exposure increases production of red and white blood cells which tends to strengthen the immune system. Studies also show that Vitamin D may help activate T-cells which are the body’s first line of defense against pathogens.
Reduces Risks of Osteoporosis: Sunshine is one of the most potent sources of Vitamin D. Higher levels of Vitamin D have been shown to help increase absorption of calcium from the intestines and increase bone density in post-menopausal women.
Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Increased levels of Vitamin D in the system also appear to be associated with lower incidence of type 2 Diabetes. Although it is not clear which sources of Vitamin D are most beneficial in reducing Diabetes risk, there is a link that bears further investigation.
Improves Mood: We’ve all heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but beyond that, sun has the power to make us feel better, make us less depressed and may even help us to think more clearly.
There are many other potential benefits to sunshine from increasing optimism, to improving milk production in lactating women to a link to lower risk of stroke, neuro-degenerative diseases, allergies, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and psoriasis.
So my dear friends, get on out there and feel the sun on your face–at least for a little while. But don’t stay out there too long. As I often say, you don’t need to feel the burn to get the benefit.
The Fat Chick