Sun-Soaked: Balancing the Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure
A vast majority of people like the look of their skin, as well as that of other people, when it has a bit of a tan to it. There are also people who, by career choice, spend a vast amount of time in the sun and as such tend to have almost bronze-like skin. Those of us who have accepted the risks associated with too much sun have to wonder why people would choose to subject themselves to that sort of danger. It’s no secret that too much sun can lead to skin cancer, so why would anyone knowingly take that risk?
The fact of the matter is that evidence exists showing consistent sun exposure (which some people might consider excessive) can actually be good for you. In fact, some studies suggest that consistent sun exposure is actually better for you than the “sun avoidance” that an increasing number of people are practicing.
Why Completely Avoiding the Sun Can Be Bad
First, understanding why sun avoidance can be unhealthy is of the utmost importance if a person is to comprehend why someone would do the opposite. When people retreat indoors and cover up with clothes, they are ignoring the part of our physical makeup that requires exposure to nature.
For instance, sunlight is a person's most natural and therefore most effective source of vitamin D. Vitamin D works in the body to promote bone growth, aid in the absorption of minerals from food, and strengthen the immune system. Lack of vitamin D is linked to bone loss, several forms of cancer, and increased risk of heart attacks in men. Avoiding sunlight causes a decrease in your body's level of vitamin D, a decision that could be deadly.
Beyond vitamins, staying out of the sun decreases the amount of melatonin in a person's system as well. This hormone is responsible for maintaining the sleep-wake cycle. As such, people who have less melatonin are at risk for chronic insomnia and all the problems associated with it.
In addition to all of that, by avoiding the sun, your body becomes accustomed to a lack of sun exposure. Therefore, when you garden, exercise outside, or take a long awaited beach vacation, your body goes into shock mode and over reacts to the change.
Reasons to Get Some Sun Daily
By exposing your skin to daily sunlight, you can avoid the above-mentioned effects of having too little sunlight. But there are more reasons sunlight is good for you as well. Sunlight helps to stimulate the release of "feel good hormones" (endorphins), aiding in the treatment of depression, or even just feeling “down in the dumps.” Regular exposure to sunlight also works against the growth of some types of cancer cells. In addition, sunlight can aid in the functioning of the cardiovascular system, as well as the liver, kidneys, and thyroid.
So, there are indeed plenty of reasons for people to choose a life of “sun worshipping.” The question individuals must answer is whether or not the benefits truly outweigh the risks. Of course, like other lifestyle choices (alcohol, coffee, red meat), the best choice is “sunlight in moderation.”