Stepping out from the shadows of a sterile office building, into the warm afternoon light, rays of sunshine chase away the stiffness of sitting inside all day. Your body immediately begins to produce new Vitamin D, and the capillaries in your skin dilate, improving blood flow. You pause, eyes closed, face upward toward the penetrating sunshine, and a relaxed cheeriness begins to roll through you. You’re immediately feeling the benefits of sunlight.
Because it’s vital to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, getting outdoors like this may be as important to health as a good diet and regular exercise, yet it’s estimated more than 40% of Americans may be chronically deficient in the critical nutrient.
Researchers cite decreased outdoor activity as one of the primary reasons modern first-worlders have Vitamin D deficiencies, which more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and heart attacks, encourage bone loss (especially in women), and can contribute to a host of other long term health issues. Vitamin D produced from sunlight helps the body absorb calcium from foods we eat, which is essential for bone development and healthy muscles, while improving brain function and protecting against some forms of cancer.
Besides Vitamin D generation, regular levels of moderate exposure increases these other benefits of sunlight.
1. boosts our immune system
2. improves our sense of well-being
3. lowers the risk of cancer and other diseases
4. protects against inflammation
5. lowers blood pressure
While Vitamin D is available through some foods like fatty fish and fortified milk, many don’t get enough from their mainstream American diets.
This lack of a natural, readily available source of a crucial nutrient makes it relatively easy to slip into Vitamin deficiency, which negatively impacts health over a long period. And in our modern, air-conditioned world, more and more people miss one of the simplest ways to rectify the Vitamin D shortfall – by simply stepping outside, soaking up the light and enjoying the benefits of sunlight.
Consistently spending time out and about, enjoying nature on a sunny day is an ideal way to naturally get the benefits of sunlight and supplement your Vitamin D intake (not to mention getting a little exercise).
During the summer months, as little as 10 minutes in the midday sun gives your body enough sunlight to produce all the Vitamin D it needs. (In more northern latitudes or during the winter months, increasing exposure accordingly ensures adequate production.)
And let’s face it, it’s simple to add some outdoor time to your day and enjoy the benefits of sunlight. Take your lunch in the park. Walk around your neighborhood or spend some time in the yard on weekends.
That warm feeling you get when you’re stepping out of the air conditioning and into the sun is your body thanking you. And remember, if you’re planning to spend more than an hour in sunlight, practice good sun sense by staying hydrated and using UV protective clothing, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen, along with high-quality polarized sunglasses.