A dose of sunshine does wonders for your health

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Asunny day always makes you feel good, doesn’t it?

You can’t go anywhere at the moment without someone mentioning the weather, but that is very true of us Brits no matter what time of year it is.

There is something amazing about how sunny days make you feel though, even if you have to work.

I am one of the lucky few who get to work outside so I can really enjoy all that the summer brings.

Sunshine makes you feel happy – even after all that we have been hearing about the evils of sun exposure.

It causes not only premature skin ageing and sun spots, but also a much 
more formidable foe: skin cancer.

With the dire warnings in mind, most of us apply sunscreen every day and seek out shade when we’re outdoors, lest our skin come into contact with the sun’s harmful UV rays.

As it turns out, there’s another side to the story. Sun exposure isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s mostly good.

That’s right: Sun exposure is good for you. After decades of avoiding it, researchers are finding that we may have been doing more harm than good.

It’s a shock to the system, for sure, but the evidence is substantial. A chronic lack of sun exposure has been linked to fertility problems, several forms of cancer and varying degrees of depression.

People actually become depressed, with symptoms like sadness, fatigue and hopelessness from a lack of sunlight.

The form of depression most often associated with variations in sunlight is seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The disorder runs in cycles of depression and wellness that follow the seasons – more specifically, the availability of sunlight.

Someone with SAD might feel perfectly fine in spring and summer, and then exp-erience a severe downturn in mood when autumn hits. They’ll stay that way through the winter until the sun comes out again in full force.

Vitamin D, which is made by our bodies through the action of the sun’s UVB rays on our skin, is the key to better moods, better sleep and keeping healthy.

Professor Michael Holick, of Boston University School of Medicine and author of The UV Advantage (I-Books, £6.99), says: ‘We get about 90 to 95 per cent of our vitamin D from the sun.

‘It is essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and many common cancers.’

He advises that we should go out in the sun without sunblock for between five and 15 minutes a day, at least three times a week in spring and summer, to boost our vitamin D levels.

You can also get vitamin D from your diet. Oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, is a good source as is butter, eggs, soya and mushrooms.

But most of us simply don’t eat healthily enough to get adequate amounts, leaving the sun as the primary source of this important vitamin.

Being exposed to the sun gives you more energy as during the summer months you will have lower levels of melatonin (the hormone 
that regulates sleep) and higher levels of serotonin which will give you more get up and go.

This is why you need less sleep in the summer but still feel livelier.

So while we are lucky enough to have an amazing summer I personally would champion being out in the sun and aiming to get 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected exposure a day.

Use a good organic sun screen and get outside as often as you can.

This will guarantee that you keep your body oxygenated which in turn will improve your mood and wellbeing.

In other words get out there and make hay while the sun shines!

Nikki Caputa is a health and fitness coach who works one-to-one with clients and runs her own fitness camps in Fareham where she trains groups.

Nikki is also an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and a UK Hypo-presive Method Trainer.

She helps people master a fitness technique that targets the core.

Visit fab-body-fitness.co.uk. Follow Nikki on Twitter @nikkifit mum1