Dev Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Medical Director, Apeiron Life
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
May 19, 2020
The days are getting longer, the weather is generally decent, and many states are starting to ease restrictions necessary to limit the spread of coronavirus. This means that for many of us it’s possible to spend a little bit more time outside now in sunshine.
There are many positive benefits from appropriate amounts of sunshine, including improved mood and likely benefits on your immune system.
By following outdoor precautions it’s possible for many of us to now start feeling sunshine’s magic.
Sunshine’s Effects On The Immune System
Even before the shelter in place orders too many Americans were spending far too much time indoors and not getting adequate exposure to sunlight. This has only worsened after the shelter in place orders went into effect. It’s estimated that more than half of all Americans do not produce enough vitamin D, which is activated in the human body by exposure to sunlight.
As little as 20 minutes of daily sunlight exposure can have several positive benefits:
Sunshine’s Effects On Mood
Exposure to sunlight has long been known to have a positive effect on mood, and reduction of depression symptoms. The exact reason for this is not known, but many scientists believe it may have something to do with the body’s production of melatonin. Exposure to morning sunlight in particular helps to regulate wakefulness and improve affect.
The Right Amount: Just Enough, But Not Too Much
It’s important to note that there is a balance between getting enough sunshine for positive benefits and over exposure to sunshine that can lead to skin damage and skin cancer risk.
20 minutes of daily exposure seems about right for most people, but for those who are looking for a more accurate gauge consider this app which tracks the amount of vitamin D that your body is getting from sunlight exposure and warns you when you are staying outdoors too long.
Follow Proper Physical Distancing Precautions
It seems that the risk of getting coronavirus from outdoor exposure is quite a bit lower than it is from indoor exposure. Still, the risk from outdoor exposure is not zero and it is wise to continue to follow appropriate physical distancing precautions.