Do you remember The Best Six Doctors? Well, today feels like a perfect day to consider how important sunshine is. In the past 2 weeks, in my area, we saw 9 days of rain. A couple other days were overcast, so really, we only had a few days with sunshine. So what difference does it make? What does sunshine do for us? Just look at these Facebook posts and you will get a sense of the general attitude around all this rain.
Most of us have heard about the link between excessive sun exposure and skin cancers as well as aging of the skin. The key word here is “excessive.” Is it possible there is an amount of sunshine that is good for us? The answer is definitively, Yes. Questions remain about how much is enough, how much is too much. This is all complicated by a person’s general health & skin type, as well as the season and time of day. But YES – some sunshine is good for us.
The sun stimulates our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is important for the health of bones & teeth. Vitamin D also plays a role in supporting our immune system.
Sun exposure also lifts our mood! For those of us who live in the 40th parallel north region (that includes you, New Yorkers!), we are fully aware of the mood shifts that occur when there are only 9 hours of light each day. How many of us have longed for a Spring Break vacation closer to the equator? Do you yearn for spring, when the days lengthen again?
One reason for this is sun exposure triggers our bodies to produce serotonin, which is key for decreasing depressed feelings, anxiety, stress and the mood changes that can be associated with menstrual cycles in women.
What are some of the other potential health benefits of sunshine?
- There are some skin conditions that can improve with sun exposure (i.e. psoriasis)
- Possible reduction in certain types of cancers
- Possible improved symptoms in particular autoimmune conditions
So what do we do?
There are no clear recommendations that would apply to everyone. However, the World Health Organization recommends 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure to the hands, face and arms, two or three times per week during the summer months. Times may be shorter between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, when rays are at their strongest, or when living close to the equator.
If you are going to be out in the sun for more than 15 minutes, be sure to protect your skin from overexposure to dangerous rays. The American Cancer Society has good ideas for how to protect your skin.
Bottom line, enjoy some sunshine to improve your health!