It’s important to spend time outdoors and get exposed to sunlight. It’s even important to spend some time in the sun without sunblock. Let’s look at the reasons why:
1. It improves our mental health
Getting sun exposure increases serotonin levels which improve our mood. Serotonin or the “feel good hormone” stabilizes our mood, increases happiness, improves our focus, and reduces depression and anxiety. Low levels of serotonin can lead to a type of seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is more common in the winter months when we’re exposed to sunlight less often.
Serotonin is also responsible for providing us with energy throughout the day. We can increase this energy and serotonin levels by taking daily 30-minute walks outdoors. Increasing exercise can also decrease the risk for metabolic syndrome.
2. It regulates our internal clock
Being exposed to the sun regulates both serotonin production during the day and melatonin production at night, therefore, regulating our circadian rhythm. Serotonin is released during the day and increases our energy levels while melatonin is released when the sun goes down, helping to make us feel sleepy. Over time and with consistently getting time outside in the sun, both hormones will help regulate our internal clock. Research shows that better sleep leads to health and happiness.
3. It increases vitamin D production
One of the most important benefits of sunlight exposure is its ability to increase Vitamin D production in our body. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in bone health, immune system functioning, and disease prevention. Vitamin D helps our body absorb and maintain appropriate levels of calcium and phosphate, which are important for bone health.
According to Cleveland Clinic, 42% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. It’s important to note that to increase our Vitamin D production, we need to not be wearing sunblock so that we can let the UV rays enter the skin. Vitamin D can also be obtained through our diet.
Food sources: salmon, canned tuna, egg yolk, fortified milk, yogurt, and orange juice.
It’s important to note that too much exposure to UV light can damage cell DNA and lead to certain cancers. The recommendation for direct sun exposure is 10 to 15-minutes of sunlight, 2 to 3 times per week. If you are exposed to the sun for longer than 15-minutes, it is recommended to wear sunscreen.
The Bottom Line
Spend more time outdoors to improve mental health, regulate our internal clock, and increase your vitamin D status!
Written by: Sally Silva, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern