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The health benefits of sun exposure are usually always centered around our vitamin D levels. While there is no denying that sun exposure gives you enough of the nutrient—which your skin produces in response to UVB rays—the star offers various other health benefits too.

Sunlight is an indispensable resource for plants, which helps them make their food. Though the relationship between humans and sunlight isn’t as straightforward as plants, a number of scientists suggest that the health benefits of moderate sun exposure may in fact outweigh the risks. Below is a list of seven surprising health benefits of moderate sun exposure you should know about.

1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Sun exposure can cut your risk of cardiovascular diseases by managing your blood pressure. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, UVA rays from the sun mediate the release of nitric acid, which dilates the blood vessel and can thereby reduce your diastolic BP. (Related Slideshow: 7 Herbal Remedies To Keep Your Blood Pressure In Check)

2. Improves Brain Function
According to a recent update in cognition studies, scientist have been able to determine a link between low levels of vitamin D to impaired cognitive functions in elders above the age of 45. Researchers have further hypothesized that this relationship may be due to the sun’s effect on our internal body clock. Because cognitive impairment is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s and dementia, the link between improved cognitive function and sunlight can open new avenues for research. (Related Article: Brain Games: How To Improve Your Memory)

3. Enhances Bone Health
Vitamin D3, the fat soluble vitamin which is produced in the body when sunlight hits the skin, is essential for the absorption of bone building calcium and phosphorus. This vitamin is also associated with an increased bone density, and thus lesser joint pain and inflammation.

4. Prevents Breast Cancer
A deficiency of vitamin D increases your risk of many cancers; however, it is specifically known to be associated with breast and colon cancer. A four year placebo controlled study carried out with post-menopausal women concluded that vitamin D supplementation can produce a dramatic drop (60%) in the risk of developing any form of cancer. (Related Article: 7 Things You Should Know About Breast Cancer)

5. Eases Mild Depression
As reported in a 2002 study, sunlight has a significant effect on our mood and behavior. The study highlights the release of natural antidepressant serotonin in response to adequate sunlight, which can thereby enhance mood and ease depression. Sunlight deprivation is also associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression more common in winter months when the sunlight is at its least. On darker days, your brain produces lesser amounts of serotonin as compared to bright sunny days. (Related Article: 6 Yoga Poses To Drive Away Depression)

6. Heals Skin Disorders
Sunlight is known to benefit those who suffer from skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and other fungal skin infections. For example, one study showed an improvement in psoriasis in almost 84 percent subjects with a four week outdoor therapy of sunbathing. (Related Article: 6 Natural Remedies To Soothe Skin Allergies)

7. Boosts Immune Function
Sunlight plays an important role in stimulating the production of white blood cells which help fight infections. Moderate amount of sunlight can also suppress an overactive immune system, marking its role in the treatment of autoimmune conditions. (Related Article: 5 Yoga Poses For A Better Immune System)

So, How Much Sun Is Too Much?
Sunshine does have its own set of benefits, but it is still the number one cause of skin cancer. Your genes, skin type and geographic location determine how much sunlight is beneficial for you. According to experts, a 15 to 20 minute daily exposure to natural sunlight works brilliantly. Don’t forget to lather on your sun block before getting out of the house on a hot day. Also, talk to your doctor in case you have questions.

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