Sensible Sun Exposure Benefits Your Mental & Physical Health

By Ryan Kennedy, CCN, CFMP | Lifestyle

Dec 17
Sensible Sun Exposure

Sadly, the media has mislead people to fear the sun and not go outdoors without applying copious amounts of sunscreen and protective clothing.

This is truly devastating to the health of our society since the sun is critical for so many functions in our bodies.

The most notable benefit is vitamin D production, but research has found that the benefits of sun exposure go far beyond just vitamin D synthesis and while supplementing with vitamin D can be a great idea, it doesn’t compare to getting some sunshine. (1)

Rest assured, there are ways to soak up the benefits from sensible sun exposure without subjecting yourself to potential skin damage.

This article is going to outline how to optimize your sun exposure while minimizing any risks as well as the many benefits of sensible sun exposure.

Sunlight Can Transform Your Health 

We all feel better when we are exposed to sunlight. It’s intuitive to go outside and expose our bodies to the sun.

Many people fight this urge since dermatologist have popularized the notion that sun exposure causes skin cancer.

What they don’t highlight enough is the importance of sun exposure for hundreds of biological processes to occur under your skin.

One of the notable reasons sunshine makes you feel so good is that your body releases beta-endorphins when you are in direct contact with sunshine. 

Exposure to the sun also causes your body to release nitric oxide, which has been shown to help normalize blood pressure, increase exercise performance, and enhance your sex life. 

When you exposure your body to sunlight you are receiving the powerful energy from the sun that powers many important functions in your body. 

Sun Exposure and Cancer

Sun exposure has been shown to: (2) 

  • Boost your immune system 
  • Enhance your mood and energy levels 
  • Increase cognitive health 
  • Set your circadian rhythm (biological clock) which improves sleep/wake cycles 
  • Protect AGAINST melanoma (type of skin cancer) and lower your chances of dying from it 
  • Help with depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder 
  • Reduce your risk of numerous chronic diseases including heart disease 
  • Develop strong, healthy bones 
  • Improve your hormonal balance 
  • Protect against many types of cancer 
  • Lower your chances of all cause mortality 
  • Increase vitamin D status 

Sensible sun exposure is linked to numerous health benefits. Getting out in the sun daily will add years to your life and life to your years.  

Vitamin D From The Sun 

It's no secret that our bodies synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. It's commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin for this reason. 

Vitamin D deficiency is wide spread and overwhelmingly common due to people being told to stay out of the sun, among other reasons. 

Supplementing with a good Vitamin D3 product is an excellent idea to reverse and prevent deficiency, and that is the only viable option for some folks during the winter months who live far from the equator. 

Supplementation is necessary for anyone who is unable to get their vitamin D levels in the optimal range through sensible sun exposure and diet alone. 

What many people fail to realize is that the benefits of sun exposure go far beyond just vitamin D production. (2)

Numerous biological processes occur when our skin is exposed to the sun so it's important to make regular sun exposure a priority, even if you do supplement with vitamin D. 

Swallowing a vitamin D3 supplement is far inferior to getting adequate sun exposure, yet still much better than not getting any vitamin D at all. 

Optimal Vitamin D Levels 

According to all the research on vitamin D, experts believe that the ideal range for vitamin D levels in the body is 60-80 ng/Ml. 

You can affordably test you levels by having your doctor order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. The test is covered by most insurance companies, but if you pay for it out of pocket it typically runs somewhere around $20-$40. 

The amount of vitamin D3 you need to supplement with varies greatly from person to person. One person may be able to attain the ideal levels of vitamin D by supplementing with 2,000IUs each day, another person may need 15,000IUs per day. 

The only sure way to know is to take the same dosage of vitamin D3 everyday for 3+ months then have your levels tested. If they are still below the ideal range, increase your dosage and get your levels retested after 3+ months of taking the same amount. 

It takes your body at least 90 days of the same consistent dosage to know where that dose will leave your levels. 

On average, many people benefit from 4,000IUs -6,000IUs each day of vitamin D3. 

Supplementing with vitamin D is very affordable and accessible to virtually everyone! This one supplement could have a massive impact on the health of our society. 

Experts estimate that if everyone took $20-$40 worth of vitamin D3 supplements per year to get their levels up to the ideal range, it would cut health care costs by 25%! That equates to nearly 1 TRILLION dollars in health care savings in the United States alone every year, as well as countless lives saved. 

Here is the vitamin D supplement we recommend: 

Carlson Vitamin D3 2000 IU, 360 Softgels Price: $20.93 Carlson Vitamin D3 2000 IU, 360 Softgels Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Last Updated: 11/29/2018

Sensible Sun Exposure and Cancer 

Dermatologist have warned for years that sun exposure will lead to skin cancer. 

Interestingly, the research suggests that sunshine can actually LOWER your risk of dying from skin cancer! (3)(4)

Malignant melanoma is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of skin cancer and it's almost always found on clothed areas of the body that get little to no sun exposure! 

Additionally, a large risk factor for skin cancer is vitamin D deficiency, which is the result of not getting enough sunshine. 

A study out of Sweden found that avoiding the sun was linked to an higher chance of mortality. Sun exposure was also shown to decrease the likelihood of dying from a cardiovascular event. (5)

This is not to say that excessive sun exposure doesn't negatively impact your risk for skin cancer. 

Staying out in the sun for hours on end can be very harmful to the skin, even if you do have sunscreen on! 

Burns are bad for your skin and prolonged periods of sun exposure should be avoided. 

Luckily, there are ways to gain the benefits of sun exposure without doing harm to your skin. 

How to Maximize The Benefits of The Sun While Minimizing the Dangers 

Going out in the sun during the middle of the day for hours on end is not sensible nor a good idea. Burns are bad. Whether its from the stove top, hot water, or the sun, burning your skin does damage and should be avoided!

The key is sensible sun exposure!

Going out during peak-day for a short period of time with maximum skin exposure is ideal. Some people can be out in the sun for 30+ minutes before they begin to burn; for others, it’s 5 minutes.

Monitor your skin and as soon as you begin to turn the slightest color of pink, find shade or cover up. This is the sign you are going to start getting a sunburn if you do not get out of the sun.

We gain the most benefit from the sun during solar noon. That is typically from 11am-1pm. Since the sun is most powerful at this time, you don't need to stay out for nearly as long. 

Researchers have determined that if your shadow is taller than you are, the sun is at a point that is too low to generate vitamin D synthesis. In many parts of the world, the sun is at a low angle all winter long making supplementation a necessity for optimal vitamin D levels. 

Although, the sunlight can still benefit you in many other ways even if it's not solar noon.  

I suggest full exposure without sunscreen for however many minutes you can handle without getting burned, then if you will continue to be out in the sun put on clothing/hat or if necessary apply a non-toxic sunscreen at that point.

The reason is because sunscreen blocks many of the benefits of the sun and stops the production of vitamin D. 

Expose as much surface area of skin as you are comfortable with. When possible, combine your sun exposure with earthing to amplify the health benefits! 

Nutrition Impacts your Skins Tolerance to The Sun

I have worked with many people who have said, "Ryan, in the summertime I will get sun burned in 5 minutes! How can I benefit from the sun?"

Thats easy. Go out for 3-4 minutes at a time. Do this every day and you will see that over time your skin will develop more resilience to the sun and you will be able to stay out for longer and longer. As an added benefit you will develop a healthy, sexy tan! 

Do not rush this process! The worst thing you can do is assume if 5 minutes is good, 20 minutes must be great. That is NOT the case if you are fair skinned and will burn in that time. 

This will slow your progress and create unnecessary damage to your skin. 

Be patient. Slow and steady is the key. 

Nutrition does have a large impact on your skins tolerate to the sun.

Consuming plenty of healthy fats will improve your skins tolerance to the sun making you less susceptible to burns. It will also improve your overall skin health in many other ways. 

Anti-oxidants such as those found in vegetables are also very helpful in protecting your skin from the skin. 

Eat you vegetables and healthy fats so you can improve your skins ability to tolerate the sun and increase your overall health! 

One particular class of nutrients that plays a very powerful role in skin health and protecting your skin from the sun are oligomeric proanthocyanidins, commonly abbreviated as OPC's. 

Professor Jacques Masquelier developed a way to extract OPC's from pine bark and trademarked the term Pycnogenol®. 

Pycnogenol® has been shown to help prevent sun burns and have many regenerative benefits to the skin. (6)

You can purchase and take this supplement 30-40 minutes before going out in the sun as an excellent alternative to sun screen that will also provide numerous other benefits to your health. 

Start Your Day With Sunlight 

Sunlight is the most important factor for setting our circadian rhythm (biological clock). (6)

Back in the day before artificial lighting, humans would wake with the sunrise, getting their fix of morning light everyday to keep their biological clock on point. 

Sadly, most people rely on artificial junk light to star and end their day. As though thats not bad enough, most are under it during the day leaving minimal outdoor time to get good quality sunlight. 

This wrecks havoc on your circadian rhythm, eye sight, and overall health. 

Sensible Sun Exposure Benefits

Opening the curtains upon waking is great, but window glass can block some of the beneficial light spectrums so going outside is ideal. 

I make it a priority to align my sleep schedule with the sunrise so I get to bed early and wake up with the sun at 6:00-6:30 am. (depending on the time of year this changes a bit) 

One of the first things I do when I wake up is go outside (even when it's really cold) and bask in the morning light (even if it's overcast). During this time I drink 32 oz of filtered, mineralized water and do my gratitude journaling

I make sure to do this before looking at my phone, checking emails, drinking coffee, or doing anything else. This enables my body to wake up naturally and immerse myself in positivity to ensure I am in the right state of mind to have a successful day. 

I strongly believe that getting sensible sun exposure during the first half of the day is one of the best ways to improve your sleep quality! (mitigating blue light and artificial junk light in the evenings prior to bed is also a very important factor to improve your sleep)  

How to Heal A Sunburn 

By applying the strategies covered on how to safely get sensible sun exposure, you will be able to avoid sun burns while reaping all the benefits. 

But, we are all human and sometimes shit happens. 

There will inevitably be times when you spend a little to long in the sun and could benefit from having a topical product you and rub on the burned area that will help to smooth the skin, promote healing and regenerate those skin cells. 

One of the best natural substances to accomplish this is aloe vera

Sadly, most of the after sun aloe products on the market are very poor quality and contain many harmful additives. 

I've found that many of the conventional "after sun" aloe vera products aren't using a good extraction method of the aloe plant so it doesn't contain as many of the active constituents. Additionally, many contain harmful additives (such as FD &C colorings and synthetic preservatives) we certainly don't want in or on our bodies. 

That is why I recommend using a homemade sun burn relief combination using very high-quality aloe vera and a few other natural ingredients.

The aloe vera product I use in my practice is made by R PUR Aloe and is called 18x concentrate aloe vera since it has up to 18 times the active compounds than other aloe vera products due to the extraction method they use. 

To make your own homemade after sun concoction is heal your skin after a sun burn (or any burn) is: 

  • 1 part 18x aloe concentrate 
  • 1 part fractionated coconut oil 
  • Optional: 2-3 drops of peppermint and/or lavender essential oil 

Simply combine all ingredients into a spray bottle and spray it onto the areas of your skin with the burn. Allow it time to sit and soak in. 

How to Get More Sun Exposure With a Busy Schedule 

I know many of you may be thinking, "I would love to get more sun, but I work in a office all day". 

You have to prioritize this healthy habit the way you would prioritize sleep, hydration, exercise, or nutrition. MAKE time for your daily sun exposure during your lunch break. 

Shortly after eating lunch, go on a 15-20 minute walk. Aim to walk in a more secluded environment when you can expose some skin and feel comfortable. If that's not feasible for you, roll up your sleeves and simply do the best you can. 

Take phone calls outside while walking rather than sitting at your desk. 

If you have a meeting scheduled, see if your colleague is willing to chat while walking outside rather than sitting at a desk. 

Lastly, combine your healthy habits to maximize the productivity and benefits of your sun exposure. 

  • Do your workout outdoors whenever possible. 
  • Go for a walk barefoot at the park or beach to reap the benefits of grounding while you get your sun exposure and steps in. 
  • Do some yoga in the park to work on your flexibility. 

The options are virtually endless. 

Don't fear the sun. Exposure yourself safely and reap the numerous benefits to your health and quality of life for years to come! 

Read Next: The 8 Best High Intensity Interval Training Workouts for Quick and Easy Weight Loss

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