20 June 2013 The Benefits of Sunshine

There is a reason we all look forward to summer. Long days, warm temps, and lots of sunshine! Now there may be even more reason to spend extra time outdoors this summer season, as sunshine may have some much-needed positive health effects — from reducing blood pressure, sleeping better, cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke, curbing risk of Type 2 diabetes, and even prolonging life.

Researchers as the University of Edinburgh found that when our skin is exposed to sunlight, a compound is released in our blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure. While gaining Vitamin D is part of being exposed to sunshine, it is not Vitamin D that lowers blood pressure, according to the study. Researchers found that it was exposure to the sun's UV rays that caused a drop in blood pressure. And to address any concerns about risk of skin cancer, researchers noted that heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure leads to 80 times more deaths than skin cancer in the UK.

“We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh. “The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight.”

In another study, one lasting 17 years and including 4,000 men and women, researchers found that individuals with higher levels of Vitamin D had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those with lower levels of this vitamin. Though the study went through several adjustments, researchers more closely associated the intake of Vitamin D through diet than sun exposure or supplemental intake.

Other benefits of Vitamin D include better bone health through higher calcium absorption; better eye health, reducing the incidences of cataracts; boosted immunity; and improved metabolism. Although several studies have looked for links between weight loss and sun exposure, few have may determinative statements. Some theories state that exposure to sunlight shifts our body's metabolism from “winter,” which is a fat-storing mode, to “summer” mode.

Time in the sun also helps regulate our circadian rhythms for better sleep. In a recent study, researchers found that office workers with large windows and regular exposure to sunlight sleep about an hour longer than those working without windows. The study also found that those with windows in their workplace get more physical activity than their counterparts who are “left in the dark,” so to speak.

So how do you get your dose of sunshine? Lunch outside? Walk to/from work? Get out to play with the kids? Share your ideas with us below!

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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Nutrients/Vitamin D

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