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April 24, 2020

We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the sun down under. On one hand, those antipodean UV rays can be brutal, life-threatening even, turning grass to dust, skin to melanoma, and damaging our eyes.

On the other hand, the sun gives us our enviable outdoor lifestyle, and a little bit of time in the sunshine is an absolutely free mood lift.

And while it doesn’t take a study to know that those warm rays make us feel good, the benefits of sunshine on our health are well-documented.

Besides for being the best and most natural form of Vitamin D, sunshine helps to trigger the release of the “happiness hormone”: serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that helps to improve our mood and focus.

Sunlight can also help in maintaining balanced sleep cycles. Exposure to natural daylight is linked to the release of melatonin in the evening. Melatonin is the “sleep hormone”, which helps us to fall asleep, and stay asleep.

But keeping in mind the very serious health risks of prolonged UV exposure, how much sunlight is enough?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. The region that you live in is one of them. But as a general guide, the Cancer Council advises that just a few minutes outside during summer, when the UV levels are 3 or higher, is enough to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels. All Australian states have average UV levels of 3 or higher during the summer months.

However, in the depths of winter in the southern regions of Australia (and May to August in Hobart and Melbourne), time spent outside during the middle of the day, gardening or exercising, will help in Vitamin D production.

Just remember, if you’re outdoors outside of these times, be sure to slip, slop, slap, seek, slide on those Babiators. Because you can definitely have too much of a good thing, particularly when we’re talking about UV rays!

For more information, please see the Cancer Council fact sheet

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