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Running on sun power

Working out in the sun has proven to have a host of benefits for the mind and body. 

The past year may have given us more reasons to stay indoors but that is no excuse to shun the sun, it could be just as bad for us as smoking. While we do need to heed warnings of skin cancer and of course, COVID-19, scientists agree that getting your daily dose of exercise out in the sun does the body and mind a whole lot of good. So we took a closer look at what leaning into the power of the sun could really mean for us.  

The sunshine vitamin

It is no secret that exposure to the sun stimulates the production of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus that strengthen the bones. It is essential in managing chronic muscle pain and reducing the risk of fractures. A study conducted at the University of Cambridge also linked vitamin D to cognitive function while other studies found that sunlight spurs nerve cell growth in the  hippocampus, which is responsible for forming, organizing and storing memories.

 Putting health first

A dose of sunshine is an effective health booster too. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that when sunlight hits the skin a compound called nitric oxide is released into the blood cells, a necessity to control blood pressure. On the other hand, a study conducted at the University of Alberta revealed that sun exposure can shrink subcutaneous white adipose tissue – the fat that puts us at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

 Heat of the moment

Exercising in the hot sun is a great way to build endurance. High temperatures challenge the body to support muscle activity and cool the skin simultaneously, increasing the demand on blood flow and stimulating the heart. It helps increase cardiovascular capacity and your ability to perform intense tasks for longer periods. If you are a serious athlete, it might be interesting to note that training in the sun can produce better results than altitude training.

Keeping the rhythm

Working out in the sun helps regulate your circadian rhythm, ensuring that you sleep better. This goes a long way to making you  more resilient to insomnia, seasonal affective disorder and other severe complications.

 All for a smile

 Exercise has always been good for mental health but exercising in the sun has twice the impact. Physical activity combined with sunlight boosts serotonin levels. It is a natural mood stabilizer that helps control anxiety, reduce anger, tension, confusion and even depression to help you stay calm, focused and happy. An Australian study revealed that people report higher serotonin levels on sunny days as compared to cloudy ones and even a single day of being out in the sun or not can make a difference.

 The bright way to work out

Just a few things to keep in mind when planning your workout.

> Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures

> Dress for the weather

> Protect your skin

> Follow COVID-19 protocols

> Stay hydrated and keep salty snacks, like salted nuts, on hand

> Listen to your body and know when to stop 

So whether it is a jog down the street, a walk in the park or simply exercising in your backyard, take your workout outdoors and soak up all the goodness the sun has to offer. 

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