Walking in Sunshine

What if there was an easy way to get in shape, be happier, build strong bones, fight cancer and other debilitating diseases, improve your eyesight, reduce blood pressure, bring a healthy glow to your skin, get better sleep AND maybe have a longer life? There is, take a 10-30 minute walk every morning without sunscreen or sunglasses and expose as much of your skin as possible to the sun’s rays. Sunlight may just be the very best of nature’s medicines. No wonder so many cultures throughout history have worshipped a sun god.

Some experts now believe that the sun’s rays provide more benefits than harm – provided we get the right dose. Like food it is a nutrient and, like food, too much can make us ill – just enough can make us healthy. There is an old adage that states ‘Everything in moderation’. This is true with food and very true with sunlight. Every single one of us has a unique tolerance for sun exposure – too much we burn, too little we miss out on Vitamin D synthesis. Exposure time for synthesis varies based on a number of factors but two seem to be key: skin tone and latitude. Dark colored skin has significant melanin, lengthening the amount of sun exposure needed; the opposite holds true for fair skinned folk.

The synthesis of Vitamin D depends on UVB exposure. Latitude matters because the strength of the sun’s UVB rays is highly dependent upon location. Close to the equator UVB is available year round in the sunlight, but as your location or latitude moves away from the equator, the amount of UVB available at ground level – where we are – is limited. “…for example in England, UVB is only present at ground level between 9am & 3pm from April – Sept at correct wavelengths for Vitamin D synthesis.” Hobday, Richard, The Healing Sun, 1999, Findhorn Press, Scotland. p 115.

So, for the 10-30 minute walk we said no sunscreen. Why? The sun has many different types of light waves: visible light that we can see in a rainbow, ultraviolet light and infrared light. All of these move at different wavelengths. Within the ultraviolet spectrum are UVA, UVB and UVC. UVB is the wavelength that most sunscreens target because it is the one that causes surface sunburn when we have been out in the sunshine for too long. UVB is also the wavelength that synthesizes Vitamin D. So if we go outside to get our daily allowance of Vitamin D AND put on sunscreen before we go outside…we get lots of benefits but we don’t synthesize Vitamin D.

The interesting thing is that many sunscreens do not protect from UVA which has been shown to be the culprit in deep tissue damage because it penetrates right through the skin and ‘burns’ deep.

How come no sunglasses for the 10-30 minute walk? Research is showing that the eyes’ receptors relay messages to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands about light levels and that exposure in ultraviolet light is important for these relays. Research today shows that it is not just the intensity of the light levels but the color of the light that is important.
‘Sunlight…is converted into electrical impulses by cells in your eye. These impulses move along the optic nerve to the brain where they tell the hypothalamus gland, part of the glandular (endocrine) system, to carry messages that regulate various functions in the body that work “automatically”. The hypothalamus maintains homeostasis or balance in the body.” 30.

Start today. Go out for a near naked walk; take off the sunglasses, leave behind the sunscreen and roll up your sleeves. Talk about multi-tasking – an exercise, deep breathing, sunbathing, Vitamin D production, happiness producing and sleep regulator all rolled up into one simple event.