By Emma Stessman
How amazing is the feeling of warm sunshine streaming down on you?
Well, we’ve got some good news: not only does it feel good, but some sun exposure can be good for your health. The key is being super careful about how much you get so that it’s not too much.
“Have a healthy respect for the sun,” says leading expert in functional and integrative medicine, Frank Lipman, MD. “It is a powerful medicine with potentially dangerous side effects on your skin. Treat it like medication, using the lowest dose necessary, but don’t avoid it completely.”
In other words, we don’t recommend laying out covered in baby oil 1970s-style. However, partaking in one of your favorite outdoor activities—like hiking or flipping through a good book at the beach—could help you start reaping one of these sunshiney health benefits. (Keri’s expert recommendations for safe sun exposure? Always apply plenty of sunscreen before heading outside. Wear a hat to protect your face, and avoid sitting in direct sunlight.)
5 Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure
1. Boosts Vitamin D Production
You probably saw this one coming. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” after all. Sun exposure triggers a reaction in your body that boosts vitamin D production, explains Dr. Lipman. “Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin, with strategic sun exposure, enabling the body to build bones, tame inflammation, and boost immunity.” he says. And if you’re worried about how sunscreen might mess with your vitamin D production, check out this video from superstar dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe.
2. Provides a Natural Alarm Clock
“Call it nature’s Ambien, with a side of circadian rhythm,” Dr. Lipman says. Allowing the sun to stream through your windows in the morning will signal your brain to stop the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy at night. “Use the sun as a strategic sleep-and-wake partner,” Dr. Lipman says. “You’ll help your body maintain a healthy and normal circadian rhythm, which helps regulate sleep.”
3. Improves Mood
If the feeling of sunshine hitting your skin makes you want to smile, you probably have vitamin D to thank. Sunlight can chemically alter your mood, Dr. Lipman says. In fact, studies have shown that vitamin D can have an antidepressant effect. “A little bit of sun can do a whole lot of good and make you feel blissed out and relaxed,” he says.
4. Promotes Proper Immune Functioning
Avoid the dreaded summer cold by getting a sunny boost to your vitamin D levels. “Your body needs Vitamin D for the immune system to function optimally, so practicing safe sun exposure frequently to keep your Vitamin D levels up is ideal for your well being.” Dr. Lipman says.
5. Balances Blood Pressure
Spending some time in the sun is also linked to lower blood pressure. A 2013 study from The University of Edinburgh found that after two twenty-minute sun sessions, participants’ blood pressure levels had dropped significantly. Sunshine triggers the release of nitric oxide, a compound that opens blood vessels and promotes a better blood flow, Dr. Lipman explains.
The UV-exposure of the participants in the study only totaled about 40 minutes, so it’s safe to say, when it comes to the sun, a little goes a long way.