If you are fortunate to live in a province where it’s sunny most of the time, you might want to take every opportunity to soak up some sun this winter. Not only does the sun create life, but it also nourishes life and helps us thrive.
Although days are gloomy in winter, you have to find time to catch some of the sun’s rays.
The chief executive officer and founder of Feelgood Health, Michele Carelse, tells Health For Mzansi that there are numerous benefits to soaking up the morning sun. Not only does it provide some much-needed vitamin D, it also helps to strengthen our bones, improve our mood, and sleep patterns, moderate our blood pressure, and strengthen our immune system.
Sunlight also has anti-bacterial properties that can aid in disease prevention.
“The stronger the sun, the more vitamin D is produced,” she says. “Morning sun is best to promote emotional health and improve sleep patterns. Midday sun should be avoided, while afternoon sun is usually best for vitamin D promotion.”
Exposure to the sun and its health benefits
Thandolwethu Mbokazi (26) from Bramley View in Johannesburg, believes nothing feels better than basking in the sun because it allows you to reflect on your life and perks your body and mind.
However, her daily schedule prevents her from benefitting from sun exposure, because she spends most of her mornings and afternoons indoors at work.
“I believe that if I had the opportunity to take a few minutes to nourish my body and mind before becoming busy, it would have a positive effect on the rest of the day.” says Mbokazi.
In Cape Town, Ayanda Wisani, a 23-year-old third-year law student at the University of the Western Cape, agrees that sun exposure is beneficial for our bodies. He says that jogging in the morning is recommended by health professionals because the sun’s rays play an important role in our bodies.
“Morning jogs improve your mood, and if you do it regularly, you have a greater chance of having an innovative life. According to life science, the sun’s rays help fight fat by penetrating the skin and melting fat cells,” he says.
“It has been said that direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm is likely to cause health problems such as skin cancer, skin rash, and sunburn.”
The link between sunlight and melanin
Carelse explains that the more frequently you expose yourself to shorter periods of sunlight, the better for you it is. She adds that sun exposure causes the skin to produce melanin.
“Melanin causes your skin to tan and can protect your skin against the harmful effects of sun exposure. Sun ‘binging’ when your skin is not used to the sun, can cause sunburn or other harmful skin conditions, so regular exposure for shorter periods of time is better.”
How to get sun exposure in the winter months
If you have not had the fortune of sunny winter days, there are practical ways to get more sunlight into your life. According to Ultra Sun, an international tanning company, there five ways you can get more light into your gloomy winter days. They include:
- Going out for at least half an hour every morning between 8 and 9.
- Having lunch outdoors if you work indoors and sitting as close to a window as you can.
- You can benefit from using stronger lamps in your home.
- Enjoy an outdoor activity occasionally and embrace the chill.
- Get enough sleep.
Moderation is the magic word
Just like chocolates and bread, moderation is key when it comes to sun exposure, cautions Carelse. Too little and too much sunlight can be harmful to your body.
“It is best to avoid sun exposure between 11am and 3pm as the sun is at its strongest then. Even 15 minutes of sunlight daily can be beneficial.”
She says that you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes a day in direct sunlight without protection. “However, people with darker skin tones can stay out longer than those with lighter skin tones.”
According to Carelse, most commercial sunscreens may hurt coral reefs, so if you spend too much time outside for whatever reason, you should wear sunglasses, hats, and environmentally friendly sunscreen.