Benefits of Sunlight
Amazing Discoveries™ |
8 min read
Is sunlight dangerous? Today many people are afraid of the sun. We’re warned about the dangers of UV exposure and are encouraged to use copious amounts of sunscreen anytime we step outside. Sunlight is often associated with the development of skin cancer and cataracts. Does sun exposure cause cataracts and skin cancer? Could sun exposure actually be good for you? Are there benefits of sunlight that you’re missing out on?
Sunlight is a necessary factor for good health. Science has found that moderate, safe exposure to sunlight benefits the whole body. Sunlight exposure is required to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D1 which is necessary for healthy bones and immune system function, among other things, as Walt Cross2 points out in his video. The amount of sun you receive also affects your mental health3 and brain function.4 Not getting enough sun can have a negative impact on your immune system and increase your susceptibility to stress.5
Sunlight also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock. The circadian rhythm keeps all of your body’s processes functioning “on time” and needs light to work properly. Regularly getting sunlight helps you have more energy and plays an important role in the production of hormones that protect your cells from becoming damaged. Sunlight may even affect metabolism.
Sunlight is made up of a wide spectrum of light known as the full spectrum. The light from the sun is more than heat and much more than merely bright light. The sunlight spectrum includes ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. Each of the different light types serve different purposes.
Lack of sunlight negatively affects your natural processes and depresses your immune system, depriving your body of the support it needs to keep you healthy and functioning. Sunlight is essential for life.
How much sun exposure do you need each day? Your body needs between 30 - 120 minutes of sunlight every day. Remember that you need to “recharge” in the sun each day, as your body’s sunlight stores are depleted in 48 hours. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sunlight, or you don’t get out into the sun each day, you might develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD). However, you can manage or eliminate this problem.
Before you can reap the benefits of sunlight you first have to get sufficient sun exposure. It’s estimated that ninety-eight percent of the body’s sunlight intake happens through the eyes. Some sun - about two percent- enters through your skin. Exposing skin to sun is extremely important as you need sun on your skin to initiate the development of Vitamin D. While clothing doesn’t block infrared radiation, one of the types of light in sunlight, it blocks UV radiation. Glass also blocks UV light, so even if you have lots of windows in your house or office, you still need to go outside and expose some bare skin to the sun in order to get all the benefits of sunlight. You should also avoid wearing sunglasses unless it’s absolutely necessary. Try wearing a hat while walking or gardening rather than sunglasses to allow the maximum amount of sun to enter your body.
When light enters your body, it travels along two different pathways. Your visual pathway is known as the upper pathway and allows you to see things. The second pathway is known as the lower pathway and carries light to your hypothalamus gland, a gland at the bottom of the brain. This gland is extremely important for the maintenance of balance in the body as well as the production and regulation of hormones and bodily functions. It also affects your memory and circadian rhythm.6 Your hypothalamus gland is affected by light7 but it is also responsible for the distribution of light throughout the body.
In addition to this, the hypothalamus gland takes sunlight and converts it into electrical energy within your body. The nervous system then conveys this energy to each cell in your body. To function properly, cells require nutrients from food, oxygen from air, and energy from sunlight.
Getting sunlight into your body is especially important because sunlight is necessary for the development of an important hormone known as Vitamin D. One of the greatest benefits of sunlight is Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium,8 making it an essential vitamin that’s important for optimal health. It’s also possible to obtain Vitamin D through supplementation. For people who live in cooler climates, don’t have much access to sun, or who have pre-existing health conditions that make sun exposure difficult or unsafe, supplementation is a viable alternative.
Sunlight is required for the process that creates Vitamin D within your body. When sun touches your skin, a certain kind of cholesterol is changed into previtamin D3.9 This is then used to create Vitamin D3 which your body can use and absorb. Multiple factors such as clothing, skin color, geographical location, and use of sunblock can affect the amount of sun you get, which in turn affects your Vitamin D production.10 Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem and can affect anyone at any age. Some scientists have identified Vitamin D deficiency as a major global health concern.11
Vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact your musculoskeletal system, increasing your risk of bone fractures and muscle and bone pain.12 Vitamin D deficiency can also increase your risk of cancer, dementia, and possibly even certain chronic diseases.13
Conversely, getting adequate Vitamin D through sunlight can help prevent health concerns such as heart disease, schizophrenia, and some types of cancer.14 Vitamin D can help maintain regular blood pressure, encourage better cell function, protect the heart and even aid in the reduction of autoimmune disease.15
Sunlight has benefits aside from the maintenance of adequate Vitamin D levels.16 A study found that sunlight can benefit cardiovascular health and decrease heart-related health conditions.17 Sunlight boosts your mood by improving your mental and emotional wellbeing, and reduces the risk of certain chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.18 Sunlight also strengthens your body’s natural defense mechanisms and can therefore help you avoid contracting diseases or illnesses.19
Another overlooked benefit of sun exposure is sunlight’s ability to kill bacteria and viruses.20 Sunlight has historically been used to control the spread of infectious diseases in indoor environments21 and help in recovery from diseases such as tuberculosis.22 During the First World War, sunlight was used to aid in healing the wounds of soldiers.23
Scientists have found that sunlight can deactivate antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in water.24 Another study found that bacteria residing in household dust can be killed by sunlight which comes in through windows.25
Even though sunlight has many benefits, aren’t the good things outweighed by the dangers posed by UV rays? Don’t UV rays cause skin cancer?
It’s very possible to safely enjoy the sun and reap the health benefits of sunlight without risk of contracting skin cancer. The sun isn’t something to fear. There are many factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer and if taken properly, sunlight is not a major threat. Learn what you should know about UV rays and skin cancer.
The sun is a great blessing and can be enjoyed safely. But remember that moderation in even good things is a key to optimal health. Being responsible about your sun exposure is important. Sunburn is uncomfortable and can have damaging effects. It’s best not to stress your body unnecessarily by allowing yourself to get heatstroke or sunburn.
If you primarily live and work indoors, you should gradually increase your sun exposure. As you do this, you’ll increase your body’s sun tolerance and lower your risk of getting burned.
Be sure to wear a hat, long sleeved cotton shirt, or mineral sunscreen if you’re going to be out in the sun for long periods of time. You should also wear mineral sunscreen if you’re near water, snow, or other highly reflective surfaces. Be mindful of the air temperature as well, and stay adequately hydrated to lower your risk of incurring heatstroke.
If you accidentally get a sunburn or spend a little too much time in the sun, don’t stress! Be sure to take the necessary precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and have faith that God will help your body heal itself.
Sunlight provides many benefits. Actively avoiding the sun is unhealthy. By practicing good sun hygiene, you can obtain sunlight benefits while avoiding the dangers that may come from imprudent sun exposure.
Walt Cross Sunlight
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada. Our articles, videos and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before following any recommendations or using any product on our site. You assume sole responsibility for your personal health, and you must use your own discretion under doctor consultation to determine whether any product or recommendation on this site is suitable for your personal situation.