Did you know that exposure to natural sunlight is the best way to get your vitamin D? Everyone needs vitamin D for many reasons from strengthening bones to regulating mood. However, almost 50% of the world’s population is affected by a vitamin D deficiency. That’s a lot of people. Thankfully, the easiest and most effective treatment for increasing vitamin D is very simple (and free). All that you need to do is step outside and enjoy one of the wonders of the solar system, the sun.
So, how much sunshine do you need to avoid a vitamin D deficiency? According to Harvard Health Publishing, you should spend just five to thirty minutes in the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. twice per week to receive health benefits. Researchers also recommend ditching your sunscreen for brief periods of sun exposure to enhance vitamin D absorption, but if you’re spending more than 15 minutes in the sun, you’ll need to apply SPF.
How Do You Get Vitamin D from the Sun?
Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin” absorbs into your skin when you spend time outside. When your skin soaks up the sun, vitamin D is transferred to your kidneys and liver, where it becomes an active hormone. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is also a hormone. In its hormonal form, vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, which is essential for bone health and much more.
5 Proven Ways the Sun Boosts Your Health
Increasing vitamin D with moderate sun exposure has many health benefits for the mind and body. Let’s take a look at some top reasons why we should all be having more fun under the sun.
1. Stronger bones
Have you ever heard the phrase “the backbone” of something? “The backbone” is the fundamental part of any specific thing that helps it function properly, like a bicycle frame or a tree trunk. Your bones have a similar role. They are your body’s support system. The skeletal system provides structure, protection, and strength, and, with the help of vitamin D and calcium, strong bones can help you become less susceptible to injury and pain. The sun produces the vitamin D that your bones need to stay as strong and healthy as possible.
2. Improved mental health
Does your mood seem to improve when the sun is out? If so, you can thank the sun for your sunny disposition. The sun’s vitamin D releases neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that have a critical role in your mental health. Serotonin is the “happy chemical” in your brain that regulates mood, sleep, digestion, and much more. Have you noticed that the “happy chemical” and “the sunshine vitamin” are linked yet?
Lack of exposure to natural sunlight can cause ebbs in serotonin levels, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Roughly 10 million Americans experience SAD, which is reoccurring depression during specific seasons, usually during winter. A popular treatment for SAD is light therapy, which incorporates sun lamps to mimic natural sunlight when sunshine is not available. Also, researchers have found vitamin D receptors along regions of the brain that are connected to depression. No wonder sunny days make people happy!
3. Lower blood pressure
When you think about relaxing under the sun, how do you feel? A little more at ease? Taking time to unwind can naturally lower blood pressure, and adding sunlight to your self-care regimen is even more beneficial. When natural sunlight touches your skin, nitric oxide releases into your bloodstream and lowers your blood pressure. Having normal blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, so get outside to show your heart some love.
4. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is your body’s natural shield from infection and sickness. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you strengthen your immune system, but you should also add vitamin D to the mix. Researchers have found that the sun’s production of vitamin D activates your T cells (immune cells). Your T cells need to move to fight infections in the body. The immune system makes this happen with a helping hand, hydrogen peroxide, and guess what else? Sunlight! It activates hydrogen peroxide, causing T cells to boost your immune system even more effectively.
5. Better sleep
If you need to catch more Zzz’s, then try catching more rays. Serotonin, the happy chemical that you read about earlier, increases when you spend more time in natural sunlight. Serotonin works alongside another chemical in your brain, melatonin, which tells your body when it’s time to fall asleep. Serotonin is released during daylight, and melatonin is produced in darkness.
Serotonin and melatonin work hand in hand. Without enough serotonin, your brain may not produce enough melatonin. Spending more time in the sun can increase your serotonin during the day, which helps to raise your melatonin at night for a deeper sleep.
FYI: If you have insomnia, try exposing yourself to sunlight for 30 to 45 minutes each morning, and go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day to see some improvement in your sleep cycle.
A Few Sun Safety Tips
The sun’s UV rays are intense, so it’s important to stay safe as you soak up your daily dose of vitamin D.
1. Use SPF
Always wear SPF when spending an extended period outside. The sun can start damaging your skin after 15 minutes of exposure, especially if you have a fair complexion. So, reap the sun’s benefits while protecting your skin from sunburn, sun poisoning, and skin cancer with a broad-spectrum SPF.
2. Limit your time in the sun
The sun’s peak hours are 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. While it’s beneficial to spend less than 30 minutes in the sun during this timeframe, it’s best to avoid going beyond this amount of time if possible. If you’re spending the majority of your day outside during the sun’s brightest hours, make sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or as often as the bottle suggests.
3. Wear sunglasses
Healthy skin requires sun protection, and so do healthy eyes. Too much eye exposure to UV radiation can cause eye problems, so throw on your favorite pair of shades to block your eyes from damage. Pro tip: make sure your sunglasses are labeled with a UVA/UVB rating of 100% for the most protection.
Now you know all the ways that the sun is nature’s medicine! With physical and mental health benefits, spending time under the sun can feel liberating, relaxing, and freeing. Does your health insurance make you feel the same way? Vera Health could give you the coverage that you need and the freedom that you want from your health insurance company. Get in touch with one of our friendly Vera Health experts to learn more about our customized plans. Give us a call at 844-961-9645 to learn more about Vera. No mystery, no fluff, no hassle.