We’ve all heard the horror stories of what happens when we get too much sun—premature aging and wrinkling of the skin, varying forms of skin cancer and even macular degeneration that can eventually lead to blindness. No wonder we’re slathering on the sunscreen and desperately seeking shade! But before you shun the sun altogether, consider some of the benefits that come from a little sun exposure and some of the dangers of NOT getting enough sun:
- Your immune system will suffer: Sunshine helps to encourage the production of white blood cells in your body. Those white blood cells, in turn, help to boost your immune system. If you don’t get an adequate amount of sunshine on a regular basis, your body could have a hard time fighting off illness and disease.
- Your circulation will be poor: Sunshine also stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body. These red blood cells increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, which improves your circulation.
- Your frame of mind will suffer: Exposure to sunshine literally improves your mood and gives you a sense of well-being. It’s not just a figment of your imagination—sunshine actually encourages the body to produce endorphins and serotonin, both of which make you look on the “bright side” of life.
- You won’t sleep as well: Just as the sun helps the body produce serotonin during the daylight hours, it also encourages the production of melatonin at night. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you to sleep soundly.
- Your body won’t produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D: Linked to cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer, vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem in our day and age, due primarily to people being overly cautious about sun exposure. Some experts have estimated that over 70% of Americans now suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Your body produces vitamin D when it absorbs the sun’s UV-B rays, and although vitamin D can be found in some food products—like salmon, tuna, milk and fortified cereal—it’s hard to get enough of it through food alone.
The key to getting an adequate amount of sun is much the same as almost everything else having to do with good health, and we can sum it up in one word—moderation. According to the Institute of Medicine, from birth until the age of 50 or so, we need about 200 IUs (international units) of vitamin D each day; we need about 400 IUs from the age of 51 to 70; and about 600 IUs are needed from the age of 71 on. Most studies recommend a minimum of about 10 to 15 minutes of sun three times a week (exposing arms and legs to the sun without sunscreen) in order to reap the benefits of healthy sun exposure. Others recommend 10 minutes a day.
But there are other factors to consider. Very light-skinned people need less sun than darker-skinned people, for example. The time of day may have an impact on the benefits you derive from sun exposure—the sun is especially strong from about 10:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. And, of course, we really do have to exercise some caution to reduce the chance of developing skin cancer and other sun-related problems. It’s best to remember moderation, and check with your doctor if you have specific questions or special concerns. In the meantime, enjoy a little sun—it can really brighten your day!
Roxanne Jones is a health and beauty enthusiast who writes for Fusion MedSpa, a medical spa in Texas known for blending science and beauty to offer effective spa treatments from laser hair removal to DermaKinetics. For more information you can find them at Fusion MedSpa, 1015 West University Avenue #515, Georgetown, TX, Phone: (512) 868-0003.