The messages you’ve received about sunshine have been mixed from the time you were a child. At one point, getting outside and getting a lot of sunshine was encouraged. The next second, it was terrible and likely to cause cancer and any number of other debilitating or disfiguring side effects.
So what’s the deal? Is sunshine something to be avoided at all costs? Should exposure be minimized? Or should you maximize exposure to sunshine for an overwhelming number of health benefits? And if so, how can you make it happen?
Why Exposure to the Sun is Important
Here’s the thing: The sun pumps out important nutrients, like vitamin D, that can be hard to find in foods and other sources. When we put on too much protective sunscreen, we block it out. Many health conditions have a direct link to low levels of vitamin D; just a few of them are:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Heart disease
Other advantages of exposure to sunlight include:
- Regulating circadian rhythms. Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock that helps your body understand when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. One of the main cues in this process is sunlight. A lack of exposure to the sun could lead to trouble sleeping or waking.
- Lower blood pressure. Lower blood pressure has been linked to a reduced number of heart attacks and other diseases. The sun has been shown to reduce blood pressure in those who suffer from high blood pressure.
- Less severe depression. You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, caused by a lack of sunlight during the winter. The sun is a natural anti-depressant.
- Better skin. The sun has been proven to help manage skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and others without the need for medications.
- Healthier bones. The sun helps your body absorb calcium, which is critical for bone health in adults and development in children.
How to Get More Sunshine in Your Life
There’s no denying it: Exposure to the sun is beneficial for many aspects of your health. But that doesn’t mean you should go at it with baby oil or tanning beds. How can you increase your exposure to the sun in a healthy way? Check out a few options below.
1) Choose Your Timing
If your only option for sun exposure is during the heat of the day, understand your timing and make wise choices. If you’re planning on being outside during the afternoon, limit your exposure to 20-25 minutes. This decreases your need for sunscreen and is just the right amount for increasing your Vitamin D.
2) Sign Up for a New Hobby or Sport
If you’re a schedule-oriented person, finding the time to get outside can be a challenge. Why not start a new hobby, sign up for a team sport or register for a race, something that will force you to put some time in outside? If your event or sport requires training, try to do so in the morning or evening to avoid direct long-term exposure, and practice safe sun habits when you are required to be out in the heat of the day.
3) Move Family Time Outside
You already put a focus on family dinners and other meals; why not move them outside when the weather permits? By installing a new deck, or accessorizing your current outdoor space, you’ll make it easier than ever to get outside together. Spend mornings and evenings outdoors to decrease direct exposure and the need for excessive amounts of sunscreen.
4) Get a Dog
It might sound a little far-fetched. However, pets such as dogs require time outside to maintain their optimal levels of health. This means that you’ll have to make it happen. Adding a pet to your family is a big decision, so make it wisely. However, once you do so, commit to twice daily walks outside. Regardless of the season, you’re sure to increase your exposure to sunlight.
5) Make Your Office Mobile
If you have the ability to make big decisions for your professional life — as in you run your own company or work from home — making your office mobile is an excellent way to get more sunlight. Host a meeting or two around a table outside of the office. Use your deck as an extended office space and take your computer with you. Take phone calls outside when possible, or simply unplug during lunch breaks by taking a walk in the great outdoors.
6) Ditch Your Car
This doesn’t mean it’s time to sell the car and move on to public transportation. Reliable vehicles are important for long trips and those that require a strict schedule. However, by ditching your car and opting for a bike when possible, you’ll increase your exposure to the sun while adding a little extra exercise into your routine. This is a win-win situation.
7) Start a Garden
First of all, who doesn’t love delicious fresh fruits and vegetables? Instead of relying on the local farmer’s market or grocery store, why not start your own garden? You’ll be more excited to incorporate healthy foods into your diet and will be forced to spend a little extra time in the sun taking care of your new venture.
The time to increase your sun exposure is now. Think about the health benefits you could be missing out on by not spending time outside and consider incorporating some of the activities above into your routine. Your long-term health could depend upon it.