Embrace the sun’s power for optimal physical and mental health.
The southern Utah weather is warming through spring into summer, which, makes it the perfect time to talk about the power of the sun. It’s the perfect time to spend time outside, sit down, close your eyes, and feel the warmth of the sun. Not only is it relaxing and comforting; there are also some real health benefits that are associated with safe-sun exposure (15 minutes, three times a week).
Vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin” because it is produced and stored in the body as a direct response to the UV(b) rays from sunlight. There is much discussion as to whether Vitamin D should actually be classified as a hormone vs a vitamin, due to it’s important functions, and the scope of all of the roles it plays in the body.
Benefits of Vitamin D include: strong bones, reduced risk of colds and flu, reduced risk of diabetes, and even cancer prevention. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, MS, autism, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and swine flu, however more studies are needed to prove the associations.
While the benefits of adequate Vitamin D are well documented, the majority of people are Vitamin D deficient due to lifestyle choices like longer hours indoors, and the increased use of sunscreen that blocks out UV(b) rays that stimulate Vitamin D production.
Aside from the long-term effects of Vitamin D, there are also short-term/ immediate effects of direct sunlight. Sunshine releases endorphins, which cause feeling of well-being and feelings of euphoria, and increases the production of Nitric Oxide which plays many positive roles in the body.
More specifically in the therapeutic environment, correlation has been shown between Vitamin D deficiency, anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. People who experience depression and anxiety are known to show symptoms that include feelings such as irritability, antisocial behavior, insomnia, reduced appetite and weight loss. Some of these symptoms, like insomnia, may also contribute to the development of anxiety. One factor that determines the severity of anxiety, therefore, can depend on the level of direct sunlight in which one is exposed. As a result, sunlight has been a prescribed practice by many therapists and doctors to help decrease, and manage depression and anxiety.
The majority of the population is deficient in this vital vitamin/hormone, but Vitamin D is essential for optimal physical and mental health. Get outside, and don’t shun the sun!
– Blog written by Jared Jones, MS, Health Teacher