Gym memberships, workout clothes, and organic foods will all cost you serious money.
But I have good news for you. This one important health strategy is completely free.
That's right. 100% free.
Sunlight has major health benefits and I'm going to tell you how you can harness its power to lose more weight, have greater energy, and feel your best.
And you can do it all in under an hour per day. This guide to managing your light intake will cover 3 things:
- Why sunlight matters
- Your personal sun strategy for optimal health
- How not to burn and the popular sunscreen brands you should avoid at all costs
- The three most important times of the day to manage your light exposure
What sunlight matters
Sunlight is a nutrient. As soon as you step outside in the morning to start your day, it's this dose of rays in your eyes that's actually punching your circadian clock for the day.
It's what will tell your brain when it should begin to fall asleep each night.
And you may be familiar with the "sunshine" vitamin - aka vitamin D. Getting outside during the day is what allows your body to naturally manufacture vitamin D from the sun.
Without intentional and consistent natural light exposure during the day, you won't get the vitamin D you need.
So it's largely why roughly 80% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. We're all guilty of spending way too many hours indoors these days.
A lack of sun is far from natural and it's making us sick. Declining vitamin D levels lead to a whole cascade of health problems...
- it negatively effects mood and causes seasonal depression.
- there's a high correlation with increased obesity
- neurological decline is accelerated
- it will significantly impair the immune system
- healthy hormone levels will plummet to subpar numbers - specifically, testosterone levels decline.
- the results of deficiency over time leads to increased bone loss and a greater chance of all cause mortality
Technically, without proper sun exposure to optimize vitamin D levels, your chances of death from anything increases pretty significantly.
So yeah...it's a big deal. Not all nutrients have the same pull when it comes to total body health.
In a perfect world, you'd get enough daily sun to optimize your natural vitamin D production while avoiding prolonged exposure that leads to sunburn.
While most of us can agree that it's completely unnatural to be inside all day, we have to work to pay the bills. It can mean staying inside for a major potion of the day.
But you can be smart about your sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D levels - while still balancing your responsibilities at work as well as in the office.
Your personal sun strategy for optimal health in 4 steps
1. Know when to go outside and for how long.
Vitamin D production within the body relies on UVB rays. But there's an optimal time of day to perfectly catch these rays to produce the most vitamin D.
It's roughly high noon.
To determine when high noon occurs in your geographic location, based off the time of year, go here.
Once you're at the site linked above, you can drag the pin to your location and scroll down to find “Solar Noon.”
It will be somewhere around midday. This is key...
Too early in the morning and too late in the day, you'll be getting more UVA rays. The problem here is that you won't be getting enough of the balanced UVB wavelengths, so there’s more potential for skin damage.
2. Try not to burn.
Moderation is key and just like any other nutrient, more is not necessarily better. Repeated burning leads to premature aging and an increase the risk of skin cancer.
It’s irresponsible to repeatedly get burned, it’s dangerous, and it’s hazardous to your heath.
Here's what you can do. Commit to 10-15 minutes of sun exposure three times per week. Vitamin D production from the sun depends on many variables, including:
- skin color, whether darker or lighter.
- clouds, overcast skies or excessive pollution.
- the season - in winter months, vitamin D producing wavelengths are non-existent.
- geographic location - farther from the equator and northern US states are at a disadvantage.
- altitude - vitamin D production slightly increases at higher altitudes.
- how old you are.
- how much clothing you’re wearing.
With all the variables at play, knowing how much time outside is confusing.
However, 10-15 minutes, at the right time, seems to be a balance between letting your skin manufacture the vitamin D it needs while limiting sustained sun exposure that causes long term damage.
3. Build healthy habits around sunshine.
Putt this into practice 3x’s per week:
- go outside to eat your lunch and roll up those sleeves. Soak up the high noon sun on as much of your body as possible.
- even better, go outside at lunch and take off your shirt - go for a stroll around the block. The more full body exposure you get, the more likely you are to produce vitamin D.
- don’t lather up with sunscreen since you’ll ONLY be outside for 10-15 min max 3x’s per week. (sunscreen will significant hinder vitamin D production)
- if you work from home, go for a shirtless walk around the block with a podcast or audiobook.
4. Supplement vitamin D intelligently.
You may be wondering,"If it's free from the sun, do you still need a supplement?"
The answer is YES. Let’s face it, the likelihood that you'll be able to truly dial in your vitamin D level for optimal health, performance and hormone levels with just the sun alone is unlikely.
Winter months, cloudy skies, geographic challenges and a full work day are a few of the variables beyond our control.
Unless you work on your computer in your board shorts on a sandy beach near the equator, vitamin D supplementation is a useful tool.
Get your blood work done and find out where your current levels sit. Next, work with a functional medicine practitioner to get dialed in.
You'll probably want to find a qualified MD who also practices functional medicine. Find a full database when you click here.
Finding a functional medicine practitioner will get you in the optimal range, instead of the conventional practitioner approach of simply having minimal acceptable levels.
I believe "acceptable levels" isn't enough if you want to be lean, live a long and happy life and be fully charged at the gym and in your professional life.
How not to burn and the popular sunscreen brands you should avoid at all costs
If you do go outside for longer than 30 minutes, there a few things to consider:
- cover up your face and hands. These body parts get blasted with sun our entire lives, they're always exposed! Excessive exposure to any part of the body over sustained periods of time is what increases your skin damage and cancer risks.
- take the time to find a natural sunscreen. It's a simple purchase decision that can pay future dividends to your health.
The sunscreen you buy matters too.
Don't tune out just yet. This part is important. Remember, this is about being optimal to live your best life.
Most conventional sunscreens are loaded with chemicals: parabens, artificial fragrances, preservatives and petroleum derived additives are just a few.
These chemicals increase the body’s toxic load, disrupt hormone levels and interfere with the neurological signals.
Everything in contact with your skin eventually soaks into the bloodstream….it’s how testosterone cream, the nicotine patch and even “good for your muscle and magnesium levels” Epsom salt baths work.
If you lather up with chemical laden sunscreen, you’re likely going to increase chemicals in your bloodstream.
The same can be said for sunscreen sprays - it’s still makes direct contact with your skin but now you add an additional risk - inhalation.
All those chemicals get a B line into your lungs.
To see if your sunscreen passes the test, or to find out which brand to buy, click here: EWG’s Suncreens Guide.
Mineral based sunscreens using zinc seem to be the best way to go, while avoiding the sprays all together is a wise choice.
The added benefit of the products on the EWG list is that they're also safer for the environment.
Now that you know how to use light as a nutrient and vitamin D source, let's discuss how you can transform your health in under an hour per day.
The three most important times of the day to manage your light exposure
I'm a big believer in the 4 pillars of health: food, exercise, sleep, and stress management.
But I'd put light right up there with the best of them as a critically important part of your health too.
I'd challenge you to look at light just like any other nutrient. The same as protien, water, antioxidants, or anything else.
If you spend any amount of time managing one of these then you're going to want to pay attention to how you use light.
3 specific times of day you want to manage your light exposure:
1. Light first thing in the morning - we want to get outside for 5-10 min in the morning sunlight. Our eyes register daylight and this anchors our circadian clock.
This will tell our brain when it's time for bed in the evening, help us fall asleep easier, and improve our sleep quality.
Got a helpful tip to incorporate sunlight in your day? I'd love to hear it.
P.S. Here's a bonus resource for you: Check out the App Dminder by Dr. Michael Holick. Click here.
This handy app can help you apply all the comprehensive strategies listed above.
Written by Brett - Nutrition & Health Coach / Co-Founder of Moontower Matcha
Brett has worked for the last 10 years with thousands of individuals one-on-one to achieve their own health and fitness goals.
His mission is to share healthy habits, real-world solutions, and comprehensive strategies around nutrition, movement, sleep, and stress management to help guide individuals to the results they desire most.