It is creeping up to midsummer here in the UK and I’ve got to say, it’s finally feeling like it. This last week, with the exception of a few days, has actually been sunny and warm and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. It’s understandable that when the sun’s out we all feel a little better, it’s warmer, the days are longer and we can finally get the sandals out and put the boots away. But did you know that aside from the well known Vitamin D boost there’s other benefits to these lovely sunny days? Well read on to learn more about what the sun can do for you (other than warmth, light and generally allowing the planet to stay alive of course).
Most people are at least a little happier when the sun is smiling. Even I, with skin that burns extremely quickly, can’t help but smile when I walk out of the house to blue skies. This is because sunshine is a natural seratonin booster. Serotonin is of course the bodies happiness hormone, so with an increase in levels comes an increase in that happy feeling. Even just spending about 5 minutes out in the sun is enough to have an effect.
That’s right, no more excuses about not working out because it’s sunny or warm, the sun can actually ease the pain. Being in the sun warms muscles and eases stiffness. This can help reduce the pain caused by certain inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. But it couldn’t go wrong in easing those achy muscles from yesterday’s squats!
Nitric-oxide, a compound released by UV rays, lowers blood pressure. This can result in a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. Indeed research from the University of Edinburgh found that those with low blood levels of vitamin D had twice the risk of a heart attack within five years compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D. Similar research found that people exposed to UV lamps had lower blood pressure than those exposed to heat lamps alone.
Anyone who has light curtains has probably suffered the frustration of waking up when it’s light and struggling to get back to sleep. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! When you are woken up gradually by the sun (rather than from a screeching alarm clock) the sleep stimulating hormone Melatonin is switched off. This gradual wake up improves energy and mood as opposed to the “fight or flight” sensation of a sudden wake up. Furthermore this exposure to daylight early on in the day helps your body clock reset to it’s active daytime phase. This is, in short your body differentiating between day and night. By exposing yourself to lots of light first thing in the morning (and continuing to get plenty of natural light throughout the day), this tells your body it’s daytime which can lead to a better night’s sleep later on, once it’s dark.
Get That Vitamin D
Surely we’ve all heard of this wonderful vitamin. Produced in the skin’s response to UV exposure, vitamin D can help prevent illnesses such as breast and colon cancer, inflammation, multiple sclerosis and depression. Not many foods supply vitamin D (those that do include egg, oily fish and fortified cereals) so it’s important to make the most of the sunshine when we have it and spend a little time outside.
As lovely as all these health benefits sound, it’s still vitally important to remember sun safety. A little sunshine can be good for you, but it can also be very dangerous if you aren’t careful. Always remember to wear sunscreen with a high SPF factor and reapply regular, wear a suitable hat and stay hydrated. Also try to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours. A little boost to your tan isn’t worth potential skin problems later on in life.
So now we have even more reason to get out there and enjoy the sun on the few days that we have it in the UK. Even just a little walk on your lunch break or a 20 minute stroll could make a whole load of difference.