Summer is well underway and oftentimes, we look forward to this time of year in anticipation of the warmer weather, exciting vacations, and/or the influx of outdoor activities. Amidst the memories made at the lake, hiking through the trees, or even picking up produce at the local farmers market, I’d argue that one of the most underappreciated advantages of the summer months is the surge in sunlight and all of the health benefits that accompany it. If you are unsure of how sunlight can play a role in improving your health, I encourage you to read on as we explore the benefits of these brilliant rays of light because, whether we like it or not, Here Comes the Sun.
Health Benefits of Sunlight
As summarized by Medical News Today, sunlight “is essential for human health and well-being.” Many of the benefits of sunlight are a product of UVB rays hitting human skin. It should be noted, these are the same rays responsible for the sunburns – all the more reason to practice sun exposure safely and in moderation.
Vitamin D production, for example, is initiated once the UVB rays interact with the 7-DHC protein that exists within the epidermis. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, “necessary for key biological processes to take place in the body” (Medical). The benefits of vitamin D include supporting healthy bones, managing calcium levels, reducing inflammation, and supporting the immune system and glucose metabolism.
Another example of how sunlight can benefit your health is through the production of beta-endorphins. These endorphins, which are also a product of UVB rays interacting with your skin, are most commonly recognized for generating pain reduction. They have also been linked to improving mood, boosting the immune system, promoting relaxation, healing wounds, and improving mental health.
In addition to the production of vitamin D and beta-endorphins, research shows that moderate levels of sun exposure can help to support bone health, lower blood pressure, and prevent disease (Medical).
Does timing really make a difference?
Of course, all of these benefits sound great but, you may be asking yourself, “What does that have to do with summer – why can’t I enjoy these benefits all year?”
Now, if you live somewhere like Arizona, I feel inclined to tell you that you can! On average, the state of Arizona sees 193 sunny days (not including partially sunny days) and approximately 3806 hours of sun every year. As an Arizona local, your unique circumstances would allow you to go outside during the summer, winter, spring, or fall to reap the benefits of these wonderfully warm rays.
On the other hand, someone that lives in Washington does not have this same luxury. Washington state, on average, receives only 58 sunny days each year – less than one-third of the days that Arizona sees! The majority of those days are recorded between June and September so, for a local Washingtonian looking to Soak Up the Sun, the time of year can make a big difference.
I’ve got my sunscreen – Let’s go!
As mentioned earlier, it is important to practice sunlight exposure in moderation. Please be sure to appropriately protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun such as damaging UV rays, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and so on. Below we have listed a few simple ways to shield yourself from overexposure.
Take a break in the shade
Avoid prolonged exposure during peak hours (usually between 10 am
and 2 pm)
Just like plants rely on sunlight for photosynthesis, with the right balance, you too can use sunlight to benefit your body and your health this summer! So get out, enjoy yourself, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself Walking on Sunshine!
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