How Does Sunshine Impact Your Health and Fitness?
Spring is less than a month away, which means longer days and more sunlight are just around the corner. While cold temperatures may have kept many people indoors over the past few months, the dark days of winter are winding down. There are many reasons to celebrate the warmer seasons, none of which are more significant than the increase in sun exposure. Although getting burned is a hazard everyone should avoid, the greater pitfall is actually insufficient sunlight. Studies indicate that one in four Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.
The sun provides numerous health benefits which can bring compounding improvements to one’s overall health. For example, getting better sleep will lead to more energy, improved mental health and lower blood pressure. Here are four reasons you should plan to catch more rays in 2022.
Improved Mental Health: There’s actually a clinical term for feeling moody during the winter months, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The cause is due to a decline in your serotonin levels brought on by decreased sun exposure. “The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes in through the eye. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin,” according to Healthline.
Better Sleep: Exposure to the sun impacts the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. Additionally, getting outside earlier in the day can help stabilize the body’s circadian rhythm, aka your “body clock.” According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “virtually all bodily systems are [negatively] impacted by poor or inadequate sleep,” and “chronic sleep disturbance predisposes an individual to cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, psychiatric disorders, and early mortality.” Translation: sleep is massively important.
Stronger Immune Function: The sun’s most heralded benefit is Vitamin D production. This will improve your immune system, mitigating the risk and side effects of common illnesses. Beyond just Vitamin D production, however, sunlight also “energizes T cells that play a central role in human immunity,” according to a 2016 study published in Nature.
Lower Blood Pressure: All of the aforementioned benefits of sunlight can play a contributing role in improving blood pressure numbers for those with hypertension, but sunshine also plays a direct role in that process as well. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that “nitric oxide stored in the top layers of the skin reacts to sunlight and causes blood vessels to widen as the oxide moves into the bloodstream,” according to WebMD. This process causes lower blood pressure.