We all know about the potential hazards of too much sun: sunburn, heatstroke, UV radiation, premature aging and of course…the “big C.” These dangers combined with a record number of days over 100 degrees in the Mid-Atlantic region may have you running indoors to your air conditioning.  Although many of you may be fatigued by the extreme heat we have experienced this summer, I am here to tell you of the numerous, healthy, benefits of all that sunshine. Sunshine is actually good for your health for a variety of different reasons. Sunshine helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which supports muscle and bone growth as well as our immune systems. Sunshine is a natural antibiotic; it kills harmful viruses, bacteria, and mold from our environment. Sunshine helps regulate our body’s sleep schedule, and encourages more restful nights of sleep. Sunshine has also been found to increase liver function, increase blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, assist with the production of red and white blood cells, lower cholesterol and increase metabolism!

If that wasn’t enough, sunshine also helps regulate our moods. Sunshine reduces the symptoms of depression by activating endorphins and the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. Endorphins are the body’s natural anti-depressants. When you are exposed to sunshine you feel happier, more energetic and have an overall more positive mood! People who have reduced access to sunshine (due to indoor lifestyles or during winter months when the days are shorter) may experience a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is often treated by Light Therapy which mimics the sun’s rays.

Sunshine can positively affect both your physical and emotional health from as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure a day! Research also demonstrates that viewing pictures of the outdoors and natural settings can boost our mood and immune function as well. In addition, moderate, regular exposure to sunshine actually reduces the likelihood of developing malignant melanoma (skin cancer). However, sunscreen should be applied to your skin if you are going to be outside in the sun for more than these 15 minutes to prevent over exposure.

Now, aren’t you glad the sun is shining?  🙂

Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder here.

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