Why a little sun makes us feel so good

There are many benefits to getting a little sun [Photo: Getty]

This time last year the UK was battling the Beast from the East. Now, however, we’re basking in some of the warmest weather February has ever seen.

While the sun’s arrival has given us an excuse to dust off our spring wardrobe, it’s also pretty good for our health – both physical and mental.

A recent study, found that underexposure to sun carried significant risks, similar to smoking, obesity, and being sedentary.

And other research credits sunshine for helping to improve the ageing process and cardiovascular health.

These advantages come, in part, from the way that sunshine prompts production of vitamin D, a powerhouse when it comes to health plus points.

“UVB radiation from sunlight triggers vitamin D to be synthesised in the skin,” explains Keeley Berry, Nutritional Expert & NPD Executive at BetterYou. “Keeping vitamin D levels topped up is important as this key vitamin activates genes that regulate the immune system and release neurotransmitters such as serotonin.”

“Serotonin impacts multiple functions of the human body, including emotions, motor skills, sleep and hunger. Disruptions to the serotonin levels has been linked to a number of mood disorders and sleep disturbances,” she adds. 

And there are plenty of other benefits to the sunny stuff, too.

It boosts mood and focus

“Exposure to bright sunlight in the form of sunshine or light therapy are often used to boost serotonin levels to help combat low mood,” says Keeley. 

Also known as the ‘happiness hormone’, serotonin can also help you to feel calm and alert. “During the darker winter months, a lack of light may affect our serotonin levels,” explains Nutritionist Lily Soutter. “This can be particularly problematic for those suffering with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is why those who are diagnosed may benefit from the use of a light box which mimics natural sunlight.”

Why sunshine is so good for us [Photo: Getty]

Improves sleep

Sleeping better recently? Credit the sunny weather. “Sunlight may actually help to improve our sleep, which ultimately will keep us feeling fresh and happy,” explains Lily. “Our body has a natural time-keeping clock which is referred to as our circadian rhythm, and we produce hormones which signal for our body to tell us when it’s time to sleep.

“Exposure to natural sunlight or bright light during the day can help to keep our circadian rhythm healthy and may improve sleep quality and duration. One study has even shown that day time bright light exposure reduced the time it took insomniacs to fall asleep by as much as 83%”

Helps your bones

Vitamin D is required for optimal bone health with deficiency associated with a range of bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face two or three times a week is enough to reap the vitamin D-boosting benefits of the sun.

Aids weight loss

Trying to shift a few extra pounds? Get thee outside in the morning sun! Research reveals that taking in early morn sunshine can reduce body fat. The study suggests that as little as 20 to 30 minutes of early morning sun exposure is sufficient for you to lower your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Why sunshine is so good for us [Photo: Getty]

Gives your immune system a boost

Regular sun exposure is one of the best ways to up active Vitamin-D levels in your body, and this can also help bolster your immune system. Additionally, sunlight can also boost infection fighting cells in the skin, helping to fight off disease.

The findings of a recent study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest the skin, the body’s largest organ, uses the cells to ward off bacterial microbes.

Professor Gerard Ahern, who lead the study at Georgetown University in Washington DC, said: “We all know sunlight provides vitamin D, which is suggested to have an impact on immunity, among other things. But what we found is a completely separate role of sunlight on immunity. Some of the roles attributed to vitamin D on immunity may be due to this new mechanism.”

Researchers found that low levels of blue light, found in sun rays, makes disease fighting T cells in the skin move faster.

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