A common scenario when Asians are confronted with sunlight: cower and run for immediate shade! While we’re familiar with the perils of too much sun, our body still needs a moderate amount of sunlight to function optimally. Still need convincing? Here are 8 health benefits of sunlight to help move you towards sunshine!
1) Promotes Bone Health
You probably already knew that sunlight causes skin to produce vitamin D, but do you know why vitamin D is important? It’s because vitamin D is crucial for bone health. Children who don’t get enough vitamin D can get rickets, and in adults, sufficient vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Besides that, vitamin D also helps regulate calcium levels.
2) Lowers Blood Pressure
Wait, what? This is news to us too! Apparently, a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh has conducted a study on this, and this is what they found. They discovered that as soon as our skin is exposed to sunlight, it releases a compound called nitric oxide, which helps lower blood pressure, into our blood vessels. As lower blood pressure reduces risk of heart attack and stroke, it improves overall health and prolongs life.
3) Heals Certain Skin Disorders
While most of us know that too much sun exposure can increase risk of skin cancer, moderate amounts of sunlight has healing powers instead. Some skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and certain fungal skin infections can benefit from sunlight therapy. However, as an alternative treatment method, this should be conducted under medical supervision to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
4) Boosts Mood
Light and dark triggers the release of different hormones in the brain. With sunlight, the production and release of serotonin is increased. Serotonin is a “feel-good” hormone, commonly known as a mood booster and helping one feel calm and focused. In fact, decreased sun exposure leads to a drop in serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are low, it can then lead to major depression seasonally, which is common in countries with low light levels.
5) Facilitates Better Sleep
Our eyes need light to help set our body’s internal clock, or to maintain our circadian rhythm. Of course, we’re not asking you to stare at the sun! Simply take a walk outdoors in the morning, preferably as early as possible, where the sun’s rays are less harmful. As we age, our eyes don’t take in light well, so you may see some elderly people having trouble sleeping.
6) Improves Cognitive Functions
Bringing out vitamin D again: besides promoting bone health and regulating calcium levels, it also plays a big role in maintaining cognitive functions. Studies reveal that low vitamin D levels is associated with reduced cognitive function, especially in those aged 65 and above. Furthermore, sunlight also stimulates nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for leaning and memory.
7) Prevents Certain Diseases & Conditions
With moderate amounts of sunlight, it can help protect against certain types of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate and lung. It can also help prevent multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The onset of these conditions may be linked to low levels of vitamin D, so in this case, vitamin D is king!
8) Helps With Weight Loss
No one study has figured out why sunlight can help with weight loss, but it seemingly works. Some scientists suggest that the sun’s rays may shrink fat cells below the skin’s surface – sounds good to us! Also, the presence of sunshine indicates fair weather for outdoor activities, which encourages us to be active. Remember, morning light is best for outdoor activities!