5 Major Health Benefits of Sunshine

By Mylinh Nguyen R.TCMP, R.Ac

Did you know that sunshine is vital for your overall health? Not only does getting enough sun exposure have a positive effect on your body, but it is also very impactful on your mood.

Below is a list of the major health benefits of sunshine and how adequate exposure can affect your physical and emotional state.

1. Boost vitamin D levels
Sunlight has the ability to boost the supply of vitamin D in your body. This vitamin gets synthesized in the skin through a photosynthetic reaction. Vitamin D helps the intestines absorb calcium from the food you eat.  Enough production of vitamin D from sunlight on the skin can help reduce the risks of fractures, osteoporosis and other bone disorders.

2. Combat stress and feelings of depression
Exposure to sunshine enhances the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep and memory. Because of this, it is believed that sun exposure can help reduce the risk of stress and feelings of depression. High serotonin levels lead to a greater feeling of calm and can help improve focus and concentration.

3. Strengthen immunity
Ongoing sunlight exposure has been shown to help boost your body’s immune system. High amounts of vitamin D, as a result of enough exposure, help modulate the body’s adaptive and innate immune responses. A strong immune system helps your body fight infections and may reduce the risk of some autoimmune diseases.

4. Promote healthy skin
Getting adequate amounts of sunlight can enhance the skin’s appearance and provide a radiant glow.  Sunshine helps the skin produce melanin. With more melanin and regular exposure to sunlight, your skin can achieve greater protection against the harmful aspects of sun’s rays. Sunshine has also been shown to help eliminate or minimize skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and boils.

5. Enhance sleep
With enough sunlight exposure, your body can produce adequate levels of serotonin during the daytime and achieve proper production levels of melatonin at night. Increased production of melatonin at night leads to a normal circadian rhythm and enhanced sleep quality.

So, how much sunlight should you aim to get each day in order to take advantage of all of these health benefits?  Research has shown that the optimal time to be in the sun, specifically for Vitamin D production, is between 10am and 2pm.  Gaining adequate sunlight exposure depends on multiple factors such as skin colour, weather conditions, season and altitude.  These variables should be considered when determining how much exposure is best for you and speaking with a qualified health care practitioner can help you with this decision.