I Gotta Soak Up the Sun (And You Should Too)!

I recently moved to the Southwest Florida coast where the air is soupy, the palm trees are lush, the sand gets everywhere, the Gulf of Mexico shimmers like aquamarine, and the regular dress code includes swimwear with shades.

No complaints here.

In fact, I live about 15 minutes away from the beach and, therefore, decided to take advantage of my speedy commute this weekend. On an afternoon where the thermometer reads 90 degrees, nothing feels better than a sea breeze and a splash of salt water. So, that’s where I headed.

Now, I’ll freely admit that, despite having grown up in the Sunshine State, yours truly is lax with the sunblock. Sure. I’ve heard all the statistics surrounding UV-damage. I just can’t be bothered with lathering up when there are more pressing matters at hand, such as gettin’ mah tan on. Terrible habit, but what can I say: Florida girls assume they’re immune to cancer-causing rays. And leathery skin? Well, that’s just a fashion statement.

Duh!

But since I’ve embarked on this mission to pay more attention to my body’s overall well-being, today I doused myself with SPF 50, like the good little “healthy hippie” I claim to be. While applying the goods, however, I got to thinking: all we ever hear about are negative results of sun exposure. But what about the positives?

Seriously, this entire planet gets its energy from solar power. We depend on that massive burning ball for survival. So, instead of only focusing on how the sun is responsible for wrinkles, freckles, spots, and tumors (newsflash: that’s really OUR fault for skipping the Coppertone…and yes, I’m just as guilty as the next person!), let’s talk about why we actually need sun exposure. As long as your skin stays protected, a moderate amount of solar radiation is nothing to fear.

And on that note, here are some health benefits associated with soakin’ up those glorious rays:

1. The sun produces Vitamin D. Exposure to UVB (Ultraviolet B – medium wave absorbed by the ozone layer) radiation causes a photosynthetic reaction between the sun and skin cells, which results in formation of Vitamin D. Since the human body can’t create Vitamin D naturally, this is a crucial process. Without those D’s, you’d lack adequate bone growth and density, a high-functioning metabolism, and transmission between the brain and muscles.

2. The sun doesn’t only cause cancer. Uh huh. You read that correctly. While too much UV exposure is the culprit behind melanoma and basal cell tumors, not enough UV exposure can be just as harmful. For instance, people living in regions that lack reliable sunlight face a significant risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, or colon cancers. That’s because your immune system runs on calcium, and the body absorbs calcium through solar-produced Vitamin D (again, great stuff!).

3. The sun improves circulation. The combination of UV and UVA (Ultraviolet A – long wave not absorbed by the ozone layer) radiation helps to regulate blood pressure, reduces risk factors for hypertension, and boosts overall cardiovascular health. As per the previously-established trend, this is also due to that superhero-formerly-known-as Vitamin D. Recent medical studies have shown that heart disease is commonly associated with a D deficiency. These studies also happened to take place in poorly sunlit locales.

Coincidence? Methinks not.            

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