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Employee Wellness: How the Sun Affects Your Health




A little bit of sunshine can go a long way! Spending time outside catching rays can make all the difference in your overall health. Here are some ways the sun can improve your physical and mental health:


Healthy Bones

Did you know your skin actually absorbs the sun’s UV rays? Specifically, when the rays are absorbed, they trigger the body’s tissues to make Vitamin D. This mineral is essential for bone health. The sun provides a natural form of Vitamin D that aids in the absorption of calcium. This means the sun indirectly helps calcify bones to keep your body strong. Staying in the sun for about 10-30 minutes daily can help most people reach the daily recommendation for vitamin D.


Healthy Blood Pressure

Some sunshine can help lower your blood pressure through physiological and neurological means. When the sun’s rays are absorbed by your body, nitric oxide is released in your blood, which can lower blood pressure. Additionally, sunlight can bring feelings of warmth, relaxation, and comfort. These feelings can lower your blood pressure by relieving stress in your body. Lower blood pressure can also improve your overall heart health and mental health. Who knew that relaxing in the sun could be a simple act of self-care?


Healthy Mind

The impact of mental health on our overall health has become increasingly clear over the years. The sun’s rays can release and increase serotonin within the body, which is a natural mood-boosting hormone. Thus, those with regular sun exposure are associated with better mental health. Those who do not get enough sunlight exposure are at higher risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression is associated with the months of the year where there is less sunlight which affects the chemicals in your brain. This disorder can be treated a number of ways; one way is with light therapy that mimics the purpose of the sun. Let this be a reminder to catch some rays to keep your brain healthy.


Healthy Sleep Cycle

Did you know that the sun plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythm? The 24-hour internal clock regulates various functions in the body including sleep. Exposure to natural light, i.e., sunlight in the morning and throughout the day and darkness in the evening and at night, helps to synchronize your circadian rhythm to be awake during the day and sleepy at night. Melatonin, a hormone that gives you a sleepy feeling, is triggered for release when the sun goes down. Enough sun time during the day can help you get a great night’s sleep, which plays a factor in reducing the risk of depression and many other health conditions.


Ways to Get More Sun

An easy way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D may be having your morning coffee outside of your home or taking your lunch break outside. Working from home can also mean working outside your home, on a park bench or near an open sunlight window. Taking a break from your daily routine to go for a walk can provide not only regular exercise but the optimal amount of sunlight your body needs. Just don’t forget the sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure!


Learn more about ways to boost your mental and physical health and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.


Written by Claire McDonald, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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