For those of us located above the 37th parallel, winter is plagued by gloomy skies, cold temperatures, and pale skin. Whether you hibernate at home or brave the bitter chill, you don’t absorb nearly the same amount of sunlight in the winter as you do in the summer. And this lack of sun can cause serious health concerns beyond just the downtrodden winter blues. So to make sure you stay your healthiest self all year round, let's take a look at the importance of sunshine and how to get more sun in the winter.
The Magic of Vitamin D
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a vital component of overall human health. Deficiencies of vitamin D can result in an increased susceptibility to certain cancers, a weakening of your immune system, and a higher risk of developing arthritis, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and pneumonia. These health risks arise because nearly every tissue and cell type in the body has a vitamin D receptor, meaning your body must have a sufficient amount of vitamin D in order to function correctly. Vitamin D has also been linked to fighting off depression and boosting weight loss. The number one way we absorb vitamin D is naturally through the sun.
Getting More Sun
During the winter, the days are short and the sun is scarce which makes it difficult to soak up that much-needed UVB light! Here are a few ideas on how to make it easier to get the sunshine you need when the weather is cold:
Bask In Sun Beams
Try to eat your breakfast in a well-lit area. Sun exposure is most important during the early morning hours because it signals to your body that it can stop producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Although UVB rays, which lead to the body’s production of vitamin D, cannot penetrate through glass, soaking up sun beams inside can still be beneficial to your health and mood.
Sneak in a Sun Break
Even just stepping outside for a brief moment can give you an extra boost of vitamin D. Just 15 minutes a day spent in the sun can have a significant impact on your vitamin D levels. Try to take your sun break around mid day when the sun is at its strongest. This break could mean enjoying your lunch outside or taking your dog for a walk. Research indicates that your torso, arms, and legs absorb the most sunlight, while your face and hands absorb the least.
Plan a Vacation
Do your health a favor and take a vacation already! A short trip to a sunny destination can give you the mental and physical boost you need to make it through those long, cold winter months. Head to a tropical island or a coastal paradise and soak up all the sunshine you can get!
Getting More Vitamin D
With bitter wind chills, frigid temperatures, and weak sunshine, it can be hard to get an adequate amount of sunshine in the winter, even if you do implement some of the ideas mentioned above. Incorporate some of these ideas into your life in order to avoid the cold while still getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D:
Maintain a Proper Diet
Getting enough vitamin D can be largely dependent on your diet during those dreary winter months. Foods that contain high doses of vitamin D include salmon, shrimp, fortified milks and cereals, as well as eggs, although you must consume the yolk in order to receive the benefits. Add some of these foods into your meal routine to make up for the lack of sunshine.
Try Light Therapy
There are certain products on the market that claim to mimic the beneficial effects of the sun. These UVB lamps and bulbs are often used in therapy treatments for seasonal affective disorder, although home units are available for purchase at a range of different prices. Consider investing in one of these products to have at your work desk so you aren’t constantly bombarded by harmful florescent lighting all day.
Take Your Vitamins
Vitamin D supplements are available to help you get your daily dose of this important hormone without having to brave the cold. You can also take other oral supplements, such as a cod liver oil tablet, in order to reduce any present deficiencies. When browsing for vitamin D pills, you’ll find vitamin D2 options and vitamin D3 options. You’ll want to select the D3 variety as opposed to the D2 variety.
Now that you know the importance of sunshine and how to get more sun in the winter, you should be all set to stay happy and healthy all winter long! Do you have another idea on how to get more sun in the winter? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear it!