Solutions

4 ways you never knew the sun can be good for your health

Prolonged sun exposure can damage your skin, but a little sunshine with the right protection can benefit your health.
 

PHOTOGRAPH: lzflzf, 123rf.com

Many of my friends avoid sunshine like the plague, but science shows that getting a little bit of UV exposure is good for you. We’re not talking about spending long hours unprotected in the sun (this is still a huge no-no!), but heading outdoors for small pockets of time to get some light and warmth. The World Health Organization recommends aiming for five to 15 minutes of light sun exposure twice or thrice weekly to enjoy the following benefits. 

 

Be happier

The low feeling you get when it’s gloomy and rainy outside is real – our emotions are affected by the weather. One of the easiest ways to perk up is to head outdoors and get some sunlight. Doing so can naturally increase the levels of serotonin – a chemical that helps to regulate mood balance – in your body. A deficit of serotonin has been linked to depression. 

 

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Lower blood pressure

In a study by the University of Edinburgh, researchers found that volunteers who were exposed to UV rays for 20 minutes had significantly lower blood pressure levels for an hour compared to those who were not exposed to UV rays. This was because sunlight helps the body produce nitric oxide, which in turn reduces blood pressure for better heart health.  

 

Strengthen your bones

You can increase your body’s levels of vitamin D through some UV exposure. Lowered levels of vitamin D have been linked to bone diseases like osteoporosis. Having enough D also helps in calcium and phosphorous absorption, and is key to bone health. 

 

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Score deeper sleep

One of the most important functions of sunlight is in regulating your sleep-wake cycles, also known as your body’s circadian rhythm. During the day, light exposure signals that it’s time to wake up and get active. And when it’s dark, melatonin levels increase and you start to feel drowsier as you prep for bedtime. For this same reason, it’s always best to sleep in a cool, dark environment. Light leaks at night can confuse your circadian rhythm, and make it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up when you want to. 

 

This article was originally published on SHAPE.com.sg.

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