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Light up your life this summer!

According to health experts, sunshine is not always a bad thing. While it’s true that too much sun can give some of us a headache, the key is to know when you should expose yourself to sunlight.

health and fitness Updated: May 15, 2010 14:36 IST
Supriya Thanawala

SunshineYes, we know it’s hot. And no one wants to step outdoors. But here’s something to think about. According to health experts, sunshine is not always a bad thing. While it’s true that too much sun can give some of us a headache, or make others lose their appetites, we’d be nowhere without that essential ray of light.

The key is to know when you should expose yourself to sunlight and when you must stay away from it. Doctors and dermatologists are increasingly finding that sunlight has its positive effects – it can actually help you get and stay healthier.

Shine on me
To begin with,says Dr Urvashi Kaw, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist at BL Kapoor Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi, “Your mood tends to elevate when you go out in the sun because it releases certain chemicals in your body.” Dr Mukesh Mehra, senior consultant at Max Hospital, Delhi, explains that ultraviolet rays create a warming effect. “They are also known to have a direct connection with your state of mind,” he says. Which is why people in sun-deprived countries are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder – they get immensely depressed in winter.

To get your daily quota of sun safely, take a morning walk. “Morning sunlight between 6 am and 7 am is the time when the rays of light are the longest in wavelength, and host the least amount of energy. This creates the ideal balance of exposure to light,” says Dr Mehra. The shortest rays of sunlight in the afternoon cause maximum damage because they are the hardest.

“Daily exposure to morning rays help tremendously,” adds Dr Mukesh Batra, founder and chief managing doctor of the Dr Batra chain of clinics. Besides that, he explains, vitamin D (which you get from sunlight) strengthens the bones. “Sunlight also creates perspiration, which helps moisturise the skin. If you do not sweat and gain this essential moisture, you can get wrinkles,” adds Dr Batra.

Fight and flight
But overexposure to sunlight can be damaging in many ways. According to Dr Vikram Jaggi, medical director at the Asthma, Chest and Allergy Centre in Delhi, as well as Dr Kaw, common ailments caused by too much sun include asthma, imbalanced blood pressure and sugar levels, migraines, low energy, heart ailments, and various skin diseases, as well as skin cancer.

Dr Batra says that overexposure to sunlight can create cosmetic problems like pigmentation and dark spots on the skin. “Problems like solar dermatitis create reddening and itching of the skin,” he says. To maintain a balance, according to Dr Jaggi, make sure that your back and arms are not exposed to sunlight for more than 20 to 30 minutes per week.

Dr Mehra advises making fish and olive oil part of your diet to develop more stamina towards sunlight. “Homeopathy medicines are effective for ailments like migraines and headaches,” adds Dr Batra.

Here comes the sun
Make sure you’re exposed to sunlight in the morning and not in the afternoon. Early morning walks between 6 and 7 am can do wonders; avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm.

Fish and olive oil make one more resistant to overexposure of sunlight.

Use sunscreens like those from Galderma, or Ranbaxy’s Suncross Gel. For dry skin, it’s lotions that work, but for oily skin, gels are preferable, says Dr Kaw.