Elements of Fitness – A Mother's Memoir

Can Regular Sunshine Give You a Better Body and Health

 Ever heard the term “the sun’s deadly rays”?  The media for   a long time now has made people believe that we need to live in caves and never see the sun to prevent cancer and stay in good health.  But isn’t the sun a big contributor to all forms of life on Earth?

Throughout the majority of human existence (with the exception of the last few decades), humans have always spent more time outdoors than indoors. Nowadays however, most of us are trapped inside offices all week long and might only get out into the sun once a week, if that.

This subject of the sun and natural production of vitamin D can fill entire books, so I’ll try to summarize my opinions and what I’ve learned in the past few years through a lot of my reading.

Don’t worry, I’m not ignoring the fact that overexposure to the sun CAN cause problems, including cancer… but we need to also consider the fact that underexposure to the sun can have problems as well.

Consider these points:

1. Non-consistent sun exposure and infrequent SUNBURNS is the major cause of damage to the skin and increased risk of cancer… Think about your typical person that sits inside an office all week long without ever seeing the sun, and then gets FRIED at the pool or the beach on the weekend. THIS is where the damage occurs.

2. Regular consistent small amounts of exposure to the sun (without burning) can actually have a protective effect on the skin, increases healthful Vitamin D levels in the body, and can improve mood, help depression, and dozens of other benefits.  Each individual’s skin pigmentation determines what amount of sun exposure they can safely obtain without doing more harm than good.

For example, a very fair-skinned person with a far northern heritage might only be able to get 10-15 minutes of sun exposure over the majority of the body during peak hours before it does more harm than good.  However, someone with darker skin and a heritage that originated closer to the equator might be able to get much longer periods of regular sun exposure without doing more harm than good.

3. Increasing Vitamin D levels from regular small doses of sunshine can actually decrease cancer risk. Vitamin D itself has been shown to have a protective effect through various processes in the body.

4. This one is interesting and deserves some thought — According to Dr William Grant, a Vitamin D researcher, cancer rates in those living at high latitudes (farther north) such as Iceland are approximately 4 TIMES the cancer rates of those living at lower latitudes (closer to the equator) in the tropics.

Hmm, yet those people living in the tropics are getting MUCH higher levels of those so-called “deadly sun rays”… but they are also producing higher levels of protective Vitamin D on average too.

5. Vitamin D is actually produced into a hormone in our bodies and regulates hundreds of processes in the body, and is WAY MORE important to almost every single aspect of your health than most people realize. There is even evidence that due to the regulation of so many hormonal processes in our bodies that can be affected by Vitamin D, producing enough Vitamin D in your body can even help with fat loss, muscle building, blood sugar control, and hundreds of other factors.

6. It is hard to obtain enough Vitamin D from dietary sources alone (egg yolks, organ meats, and fatty fish are good sources, but still relatively small). The best utilized source of Vitamin D is what we produce in our bodies from moderate regular sun exposure over large portions of the body without burning.

7. An antioxidant-rich diet can help to protect the skin (to an extent) from damage if you get too much sun exposure. This means that getting lots of antioxidants from things such as various teas (green, black, white, rooibos, yerba mate, chammomile, etc), various berries, fruits, vegetables, beta carotene, nuts, olive oil, etc, etc can help to protect your skin. Make sure to pick up some Shakeology here to help increase your antioxidant levels in the body.

8. Another point that proves that irregular burning is the major cause of damage and not regular small doses of sunshine… Rates of skin cancer are typically higher in areas of the body that get irregular sun and occasional burning as opposed to areas of the body that have received consistent sun for your entire life.

So what’s the best way to do this in a healthy way while minimizing sun overexposure risk?

In the spring, try to start with just small periods in the sun such as 10-15 minutes/day.  Make sure to try to NEVER get a sunburn!  Gradual small doses of sunshine over a large part of your body almost daily helps your body produce the most beneficial and protective Vitamin D levels.

Avoid extended periods of overexposure to the sun on large portions of your body… If you’re going to be out for several hours or an entire day in the sun, you’ll still need to make sure to cover up appropriately (based on your individual skin pigmentation and sensitivity) to prevent burning and skin damage… remember that we’re talking about regular small doses of sunshine that is beneficial, not entire days out in the sun without covering up.

I would caution against relying heavily on chemical-based sunscreens as most of the chemicals used in sunscreens are potentially carcinogenic and are also known to be estrogenic, as they absorb through your skin and into your body.  If you’re going to use a lotion based sunblock, you’re best bet is a natural form that uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide… These are natural sunblocks that don’t absorb into your skin, but rather sit on top of the skin’s surface and block the rays.  This is a big difference compared to the harmful chemicals that are in most sunscreens (various benzones, homosalate, etc).

Load up on antioxidant-rich foods such as various teas, fruits and veggies, berries, etc daily to help prevent free radical damage and protect your skin.

More Blog Posts:

Low Fat Chicken Cacciatore

Want to Get In Shape But Don’t Know Where to Start

 

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June 5, 2011 - Posted by | Beauty, Nutrition, Skin Care | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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