How to make the most of the sun

Susannah Hickling

Here’s how to utilise the sunniest season of the year to boost your year-round health; from clearing up eczema to improving your mental wellbeing

Stock up on vitamin D

In the six months from April to September, we can get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight. This helps to keep our bones healthy and stave off osteoporosis. Lack of this essential vitamin can also cause muscle weakness. How long we should spend in the sunshine without risking skin damage depends on skin tone, but 20 minutes in the sun should be enough to reap the benefits. Make sure you actually expose your skin, as you can’t make vitamin D through clothes. However, remember to always use sunscreen. Burning your skin it actually prevents you from making vitamin D.

 

Improve your skin

Photo by Autumn Goodman

Those fabulous rays—once again, in moderation—can also have a beneficial effect on some skin complaints, such as psoriasis. UVB light can slow down the growth of skin cells, preventing the scales and patches that are typical of this skin condition. Studies have also shown that UV exposure during summer holidays can help to clear up eczema.

 

Boost your mood

We all know that a sunny day puts us in a sunnier mood—and research backs that up. What’s more, according to a University of Michigan study, getting outside for at least 30 minutes in warm, sunny - but not overly hot—weather improves memory and receptiveness to new information too.

 

Get out in the countryside

Photo by Chris Meads

Some of that good mood could come from spending more time in a green and pleasant environment. Numerous research papers have found that being out in nature reduces stress and depression and increases our sense of well-being. And, according to a joint UK and Australian study, a 30-minute dose of nature a week can result in lower blood pressure too.

 

Get active

The better weather is a great motivating factor for getting more exercise. Whether it’s walking, cycling, swimming in the sea or throwing a frisbee, you’ll be getting fitter. Often, arthritis is less painful in the summer, making it easier for sufferers to get active.

Photo by Andrew Pons

 

Be more sociable

When the weather’s good, there’s a much greater incentive to go out and meet people. Having an active social life has a whole range of advantages: it can improve your mood, boost your immune system, help you live longer and may even reduce your risk of dementia.

 

Unwind on holiday

Photo by Maximilien T Scharner

There’s good evidence that taking time out to relax is good for your mental health. It could even prolong your life. A Finnish study of middle-aged male executives at risk of heart disease found that those who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37 per cent higher chance of dying than those who took more.

 

Eat fresh food

This is the season of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, which are ideal for the lighter meals we often prefer in the summer. This makes it so much easier to get our five a day, which provide us with dietary necessities such as vitamins C and A, folate, fibre and potassium. And they’re low in calories too.