Staying Fit, Praising Apollo*

When I turned the clock forward one hour I thought — soon, birds will be chirping, trees will have leaves, and those long, cold and dark winter days will be a distant memory.

We all know that, for the most part, people are happier in the spring. We crave the warmth, the cheery rays of sunlight beating down onto the Earth and pushing away the glum cold. But do we know why? In recent years, scientists and doctors have warned us against the dangers of sun exposure. But current research shows that avoiding the sun can actually be just as, if not more, harmful than being exposed to it. Shaking your head in disbelief? Read on to find out why you should be spending 30 glorious minutes each day to soak up some rays!

Vitamin D Photosynthesis. Vitamin D Photosynthesis occurs in the skin and requires exposure to UVB rays. The primary physiologic function of vitamin D is to maintain serum calcium and phosphorous levels within the normal range to support most metabolic functions, facilitate nerve impulses and maintain bone mineralization. With increasing age, the need of vitamin D combined with daily weight-bearing exercise is necessary to maintain bone health and avoid diseases such as osteoporosis.

Melatonin Production and Regulation. From the time humans began walking on 2 feet, we have been programmed by the sun. We sleep when the sun is down and we roam the Earth, drinking Starbucks and chatting on cell phones when the sun is up. The reason? Melatonin. Melatonin production occurs at night and is halted as soon as optic exposure to sunlight occurs. It is scientifically proven that the earlier our eyes are exposed to sunlight in the day, the faster and easier we fall asleep at night. Melatonin is also proven to counteract cancer, inflammation and autoimmunity, making it an important player in health and longevity.

Sunlight Preventing Infections. Kiss those sick days bye bye! Sunlight, by way if its ability to increase white blood cell and gamma globulin count, can increase the body’s natural ability to fight infections caused by viruses, molds and bacteria. Because it increases circulation and red blood cell count, it also increases the body’s oxygen delivering system, further enhancing our ability to ward off nasty germs and stay healthy.

Glowing Complexion. And I’m not just talking about a healthy golden sun-kissed face! Exposure to sun has been proven to minimize the appearance of skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, boils and fungal infections.

Sunny Disposition (No Pun Intended). Being in the sun makes people happier! No need for scientific research, just go outside on a sunny day and look at everyone’s face!

How much is too much? Here are a few helpful hints to satisfactorily satisfy your sun requirements:

• Dark Skin? You need more exposure to sun! The melanin in your skin can hinder vitamin D production, so get out there and soak up!

• In the summer, avoid exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

• If your plans require you to be outdoors for more than 10 minutes, lather on the sunblock (but try to give yourself at least 10 minutes of unblocked sun exposure per day).

There you have it! Your prescription for sunning. Take those workouts outdoors! Get up with the cows and go for a walk. Turn your backyard into a 5:30 a.m. bootcamp for 30 minutes a day. Be healthy, happy, and smile! Summer is almost here!

*Apollo is the God of Sun and Light who, in ancient times, was thought by Greeks and Romans to bring both sickness and health. Talk about irony!

Jen Soltys is an Irvington resident and personal trainer.

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About the Author: Jen Soltys