One of the biggest benefits to your health is literally right above your head. It’s there, shining down on you for more than eight hours a day. Even when it’s not fully visible, it’s helping to keep you active, well rested, functional, and in overall good health.
The sun, even on a cloudy day, is increasingly being recognized as a major contributor to good overall health. People who get more exposure to natural light during the day are often healthier, happier, more active, better rested, have a higher quality of life, and are at lower risk for some serious health conditions. Morning sunlight exposure, for example, has recently been associated with lower body weight and weight loss. And another recent study indicates workers who receive higher levels of natural light exposure (through windows) during the day are happier and healthier than their counterparts who don’t get the same exposure.
The sun plays a very important role in regulating the human circadian rhythm. It guides you in when you should be awake and when you should sleep, or when you can be active and when rest is ideal. If you’re not exposed to light and are unaware of the time, it can lead to sleeplessness and a rhythm that works against your health. (I know that when my schedule is off and I’m seeing more of the moon than the sun, I feel the effects.)
But it’s not all about getting outside—though it’s never a bad idea to head out for a walk or go for a swim while the warm weather is still around. On those rainy days, when getting out isn’t going to happen, there’s another way to get your fill of natural sunlight.
I recently read that in a Northwestern University study, employees who worked in a space with windows got 173% more white light (natural light) exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes longer every night than workers who didn’t have windows. They also learned the employees with windows were much more likely to be active and report a higher quality of life.
Along with promoting a proper circadian rhythm, there could be a few other reasons for these conclusions. Being able to look outside and see what’s going on outdoors could serve as motivation to get out and get active. I tend to use a bright, sunny day as motivation to get outside and take a walk—if it’s a dreary day, I watch for a break in the rain to take a quick stroll or jog.
Another reason for the results could also have something to do with the fact that workers with higher-paying jobs tend to work in windowed offices around the perimeter of buildings, while lower-income earners tend to perform their jobs along the interior of buildings, shielded from windows.
Either way, we know that the sun certainly does help to support our health by boosting our mood, sleep, and circadian rhythm. Try to get some good sun exposure (especially before noon) each day, or at least as often as you can.
But always remember that if you’re going to be outside for an extended period, whether it’s cloudy or not, you should apply sunscreen to prevent any negative damage to your health. So get out and have some fun in the sun when you can. On those other days, this is just more motivation to get that promotion to the corner office with the nice big windows!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Northwestern University, “Natural Light in Office Boosts Health,” ScienceDaily web site, August 8, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140808124010.htm.
Northwestern University, “Morning Rays Keep Off Pounds,” ScienceDaily web site, April 2, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402212531.htm, last accessed August 12, 2014.