As fall descends on us, with its beautiful leaves turning all colors, cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight, it’s probably a good time to remind ourselves about the importance of the sun to our overall health. In the first place, the sun feeds us. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to sustain themselves, and also to store the sun’s energy in the form of carbohydrates, which fuel our own bodies.
But sunlight promotes health in other ways as well. It’s widely believed that too much exposure to the sun can damage our skin and even lead to skin cancer. But a recent article in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that more lives are lost to disease because of lack of sunlight than from too much sunlight. A big reason for this is that sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for mental health, bone health, and even cardiovascular health. Vitamin D helps prevent infections and much, much more. Entire books have been written about the benefits and importance of vitamin D. Many experts say that 10 minutes of sunlight in the midday with arms and legs exposed can help our bodies make up to 10,000 IUs of vitamin D. Some advocate 15 minutes three times a week. There is scientific debate on the exact amount, but all agree on the importance of sunlight to our overall health.
When the sun is 50 degrees above the horizon, you will experience the most exposure to UVB rays. The time any person might need in the sunlight will also depend on the skin pigmentation. Darker skin has more protection from sun damage, but it needs more exposure to make vitamin D.
So don’t forget to get outside and enjoy the sun—especially now that there’s less of it to enjoy!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.