There are several things that can be done to improve your own health and well-being. From watching what you eat, to a daily regimen of exercise, a little bit often goes a long way. One of the simplest steps is also one of the most important: step outside! The sun provides a ridiculous amount of health benefits, and all you have to do to reap them is stand there.
First off, the sun is more than just a fiery ball that conveniently heats up the earth for us. Did you know that sunlight is also an efficient germ-killer? Mankind has made a connection with the healing powers of the sun for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used to utilize sunlight in the healing of broken bones, mend wounds and even treat diseases like tuberculosis! Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that simply sitting out in the sun is going to fix anything and everything, but there's definitely been a strong connection between our closest star and our health for a long, long time.
Perhaps you've heard of vitamin D? Well, the sun is humanity's primary source of the stuff. Your body manufactures it as a reaction to sunlight hitting the skin. Vitamin D is very important for your health in that it assists the body in utilizing calcium, thus creating strong and healthy bones. As a result, sunlight plays a crucial role in the prevention of osteoporosis and rickets. There have been studies done that suggest vitamin D also helps protect against certain types of cancers like colon, prostate and breast.
Believe it or not, sunlight plays a part in how well you sleep at night. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body that has been found to enhance sleep. It is carefully regulated by the body and manufactured best at night in the dark. Melatonin production goes especially well after a bright, sunny day. Studies have shown that daily exposure to natural sunlight will boost melatonin production, resulting in a better night's sleep. While sunlight is a natural healer, energizer and all-around great thing, it's important to be careful of just how much sun you get.
Over-exposure to sunlight has been known to increase the risk of skin cancer. This is especially true for those with light skin. There are three basic types of skin cancer: squamous cell, basal cell, and melanoma. Squamous and basal cell cancers are caused by over-exposure to sunlight over many years, grow relatively slowly and pretty much confined to the skin. If found and removed quickly, there's very little else to worry about. Melanoma on the other hand, is a different beast altogether. Caused not by the cumulative over-exposure to sunlight, but by sunburns, it is extremely aggressive and mortality rates are high. Burning the skin is incredibly damaging and being sunburned repeatedly (or going to that tanning salon too often) can lead to irreversible damage to the body's largest organ, as well as premature wrinkling and aging.
The amount of sunlight that can be dangerous depends greatly on your skin-tone. People with darker skin will be able to stay out in the sun longer without feeling it's damaging effects than those with a fair complexion. One way to help prevent sun damage to your skin is to get what's called a "base tan." If you find that you love being outdoors but your skin is on the fairer end of the scale, it can be helpful to sun-bathe for short periods to temper your skin to the sun's effects. While a "base tan" can be of assistance, remember that it's no substitute for a good sunscreen.
The sunlight we get every day brings with it a host of health benefits. So the next time you're thinking of doing something good for your body, do it outside!
Photos by cybercauldron.co.uk and mumzine.com