By: Sydney Carter ’13, Wellness Communications Assistant
Everyone knows that April showers bring May flowers. While it may not be a month associated with sunshine the way the summer months are, flowers can’t thrive without sunlight. There is also ample evidence that sunshine can help humans thrive too.
The sun and its UVB wavelengths can do a lot of good, when absorbed safely and in moderation.
UVB wavelengths actually start the chemical and metabolic chain reaction that produces vitamin D and many people have low vitamin D levels which can lead to poor bone health. In fact, vitamin D has been proven to help protect people from some cancers, osteoporosis, rickets and diabetes.
Still not convinced? Its benefits are not merely chemical – it can be enjoyed while enhancing every area of your personal wellness.
6 Ways to Enjoy Sunshine for Wellness at UMD:
- For your PHYSICAL wellness: There are lots of ways to be physically active outdoors, but sunny weather is also a great excuse to dine al fresco. Pack a healthy and tasty picnic. You can easily pick up a meal to-go from the North Campus or South Campus Diners. Head to LaPlata Beach if you’re on North Campus or Washington Quad if you’re on South Campus. There are many local parks nearby as well.
- For your EMOTIONAL wellness: Soaking up some sun can be uplifting and help to improve your mood. Gather your pals and select a sunny spot to enjoy a heart-to-heart or friendly game. Lounge by the ERC’s outdoor pool with your friends when it opens on Maryland Day, April 27. McKeldin Mall is another great location to lounge in the grass or play frisbee on a sunny afternoon.
- For your SOCIAL wellness: Do a little outdoor community service. Investigate if any of the local parks or trails in this area need a helping hand to keep them clean and safe for the community.
- For your SPIRITUAL wellness: Take a stroll through the Garden of Reflection and Remembrance outside of the Memorial Chapel. Try the labyrinth for a moment of peace and reflection.
- For your INTELLECTUAL wellness: Grab a book, or take your studies to the outdoor courtyard of Hornbake Plaza. Green spaces, benches and table sets provide a variety of spaces to read for pleasure or study.
- For your VOCATIONAL wellness: Several academic buildings and colleges on campus have outdoor courtyards. Schedule a meeting with your mentor to discuss future ambitions and career plans while soaking up the sun.
But before you dash outdoors to bask in the sun it is important to remember that, although there are definite wellness benefits to sun exposure, safety is still paramount.
4 Tips for Safe Sun Exposure:
- Stock up on sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen does rub off, so reapplying periodically throughout the day is smart. Also, be aware that a standard sunscreen’s shelf life is three years, at most, and can be shorter when exposed to high temperature, like when it sits in your beach bag for a couple of hours.
- Notice shady areas: An umbrella or the branches of a nearby tree can act as a shield when you are in need of relief from the sun’s rays. When selecting a spot on the beach or by a local lake make sure you choose wisely and ensure that shade is close by. You should seek shade regularly and before you actually start to crave it.
- Select protective accessories: A T-shirt and a wide-brimmed hat can offer basic sun protection — about as much as a sunscreen with SPF 15. Keep in mind that a wet t-shirt is actually less effective at protecting you from the sun than a dry one.Sunglasses are another accessory that helps stop the sun from causing harm to your eyes. Choose a pair that wrap around and offer as close to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection as possible. If you want more than basic protection, try purchasing clothes that have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Clothing items with a UPF, which ranges from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent), are the best at disrupting UV radiation. REI offers a useful guide on purchasing UPF clothing to match your skin type.
- Avoid sun’s primetime: The sun can pack a powerful punch, especially during certain times of day. UV radiation peaks during midday. Do your best to avoid direct sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm
What is your favorite sunny day spot? How do you protect yourself when enjoying the sunshine?
- CDC – Skin Cancer Prevention
- The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide – Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure
- BBC – New guidance on vitamin D recommends midday sunshine