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10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sunshine That Make You Love The Sun More

10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sunshine That Make You Love The Sun More

Maybe you are worried that too much sunlight can cause cancer? It is just one of the multiple causes so there is no need to get hung up about it. We are bombarded by messages to use sunblock all the time, even in winter. But sunblock may contain potential carcinogens, so you begin to wonder who is telling the truth. The answer is that there are no black and white answers but in the midst of all the hype, there are surprising benefits from staying in the sun, provided you do not overdo it!

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, praised sunlight’s great benefits. It is no surprise that the word for light therapy is heliotherapy which comes from the Greek god Helios, god of the sun.

Here are 10 great health benefits which should make you treasure your time in the sun.

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1. Sunlight may actually help to prevent cancer

Drs. Frank and Cedric Garland discovered that the lack of sunlight might be one explanation for the high rate of colon cancer in the New York area, compared to that in New Mexico. Sunlight helps us to produce vitamin D which can help to prevent certain cancers.

2. Sunshine can prevent health problems

We should remember that we produce most of our own Vitamin D, at no extra cost. It is done by a complex process in which our skin reacts to sunlight. If you have enough Vitamin D, you can avoid all sorts of health problems.

Vitamin D deficiency can result in dementia, tooth decay, compromised immune system, and osteoporosis. As 77 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, this is becoming an urgent health problem. The best way to stock up on this is to eat certain food rich in vitamin D (fish and fortified milk) and also to get at least one and a half hours of direct sunlight each week.

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3. Sunshine can help with depression

Another chemical (serotonin) which affects your mood is produced when sunlight reaches the retina. This process sends a signal through the optic nerve which helps to increase levels of serotonin and boosts your mood. It is well known that most anti-depressants (SSRIs) work on the principle of artificially making sure that serotonin levels are high, thus warding off depression. Now, isn’t a good dose of sunshine better than Prozac?

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

4. Sunshine can help to kill bacteria

To understand what happens here, we have to go way back to the work of Niels Finsen which won him a Nobel Prize in 1903.  He discovered that treatment of certain diseases (such as lupus) with light therapy was perfectly feasible. He showed that light rays, rather than heat, had a powerful antibacterial effect.

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5. Sunshine may help you live longer

The University of Graz in Austria followed several thousand heart patients for a number of years. They found that there was a correlation between earlier death and low levels of vitamin D. The study suggests that longevity may well be affected by maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D. The best and cheapest way is to get more sunshine.

6. It helps to curb your appetite

Keeping up your levels of Vitamin D, either through supplements or by getting more sunshine, can actually help you keep that appetite under control. These were the conclusions reached by the University of Aberdeen after they had studied 3,000 women for a two year period. Guess what?  Those who had more problems with obesity also had low levels of Vitamin D.

7. Sunshine helps you sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep seems unrelated because the sun has long gone down. But your normal sleep-wake cycle has to be maintained. Researchers now say that one essential element to favor the production of melatonin (sleep hormone produced at night) is to get sunshine at the same time every day.

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8. Sunshine and vitamin D may improve lung function

Most smokers compromise the health and function of their lungs, if the habit lasts for years. One study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Crucial Care Medicine found that once vitamin D levels were maintained, then the actual decline in lung health was arrested.

9. Sunshine can help with blood pressure

It is no surprise to learn that the Danes do not get much sunshine in the winter months. In fact, studies have shown that in the month of February, 80 percent of Danes have very low levels of vitamin D. Some studies show that women who are suffering from vitamin D deficiency are more likely to suffer from hypertension fifteen years later. This was one of the take home messages from a recent conference hosted by the European Society of Hypertension.

10. Do it yourself health benefits

Sunshine is still free and as we produce almost all of our own vitamin D, then the whole process becomes so easy. I cannot think of a better way of looking after our health. We just need to remember to take adequate protection and to do everything in moderation.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”- Oscar Wilde

Featured photo credit: Couple in sunshine/Pavlina Jane via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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