The Benefits Of Sunbathing For Our Immune System

80% of the vitamin D our body receives comes from the sun and only 20% comes from food.
A woman enjoying sunbathing
The sun rules our circadian cycle, so sunbathing improves our sleep quality. (Art: TecScience)

Sunbathing has multiple health benefits, including vitamin D production and boosting our immune system. However, given the increase in skin cancer cases over the last few decades, experts recommend limiting our exposure to 5 to 20 minutes a day, depending on the season’s year.

Dermatologist Mónica Morcos González, of TecSalud, tells us in an interview with TecScience that it isn’t common to talk about the positive aspects of sunbathing, as specialists usually focus on risks.

Nevertheless, the first thing to consider is that the sun rules our circadian cycle, that is, the internal clock that regulates the cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Therefore, according to the experts, exposing ourselves to its rays improves our willingness to sleep at night.

What Other Benefits Do We Get From Sunbathing?

In addition to improving our quality of sleep, sunbathing has other benefits such as: achieving optimal levels of vitamin D, strengthening our defenses and raising our serotonin levels.

“To strengthen our immune system, it’s proving that you have to sunbathe and another thing that improves are the levels of vitamin D in blood,” says Morcos González.

The specialist explains that when the skin is exposed to the sun, a precursor of cholesterol is converted into pre-vitamin D3 which, subsequently, when passed through the bloodstream, is transformed into vitamin D.

It should be mentioned that 80% of the vitamin D that our body receives comes from the sun and we can only get 20% of it through food, according to the expert.

Why Is Vitamin D Important?

This vitamin is known to be beneficial for bones, as it helps absorb calcium. Likewise, it promotes skin health and increases the production of serotonin, which improves mood.

Regarding this last point, Morcos González points out: “we know that 20% of the population that lives in places where there is little sun, such as the Nordic countries, suffers from winter depression due to lack of sunlight.”

The dermatologist also shares with us that many patients come to her office due to hair loss problems, which, in most cases, are related to low levels of vitamin D

About the use of sunscreen, the specialist mentions: “I found an article that says that you can enjoy these benefits even if you put it on, but I think it is better to get a little sun and get it directly.”

Finally, Morcos González recommends sunbathing for 5 to 10 minutes a day during the summer, while if it’s winter it could be up to 20. It isn’t necessary to expose the entire body, 40% is enough.

How Can We Protect Ourselves From the Risks of Being in The Sun?

Although the expert explained to us the benefits of sunbathing between 5 and 20 minutes a day (depending on the time of year), if we expose ourselves for a longer time, whether for recreation or work, the National Institutes of of Health (NIH) from US recommends:

  • Wear a hat with a wide brim all around that shades your face, neck, and ears. Baseball caps and some sun visors protect only parts of your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV radiation to protect the skin around your eyes.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants. Tightly woven, dark fabrics are best. Some fabrics are rated with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). The higher the rating, the greater the protection from sunlight.
  • Use sunscreen products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. (Some doctors suggest using a product with an SPF of at least 30.) Apply the product’s recommended amount to uncovered skin 30 minutes before going outside, and apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

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