In India, it was known as atapa snana. In Greece, heliotosis. We now refer to it in the U.S. as heliotherapy. Call it what you like, but the benefits of sun exposure are well known among many different cultures. While our generation is regularly reminded of the dangers of the sun, we should also keep in mind that sun exposure has many health benefits as well. Sunlight can aid in healing a variety of illnesses and improves overall health just as long as you are also weary of the dangers of over-exposure.

While it is vital to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, those warming beams can also work in your favor. Here’s how:

Lower cholesterol levels. Some studies suggest that outdoor activities can reduce cholesterol levels in the summer months. Bad cholesterol levels, or LDL, tend to be eight percent higher in the winter than summer. In the summer, our “good” cholesterol, or HDL, tends to increase by about five percent. 

Clearer skin. Sun exposure is generally beneficial for those with skin issues and has been known to cure abnormalities such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and fungal infections. Sunlight triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, causing immune cells to travel to the outer layer of the skin where they are able to protect and help repair damaged skin.

Higher oxygen content. Sunlight increases oxygen flow within the bloodstream and enhances the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to bodily tissues. This boost in oxygen levels is very similar to the effects of exercise. The sun has a positive effect on stamina, fitness and overall muscular development.

Stronger immune system. White blood cells, called lymphocytes, are your body’s main defense mechanism for fighting infection. Sun exposure promotes cell growth which, in turn, increases the number of white blood cells in your body.

And last but certainly not least…

A better mood! Sunlight is proven to release endorphins in the body, contributing to our mood and energy levels. Sun exposure promotes the release of seratonin, a neurotransmitter chemical in the brain that promotes a “happy” mood.

So go soak up a little sunshine (and always wear SPF!).