Great outdoors, sun exposure and health.

Love the sun and the great outdoors

Great outdoors, sun exposure and health.

The great outdoors, sun exposure and health. By Marc Sorenson, EdD.

The great outdoors, because of the sun, is magnificent! The UVB rays have returned to the sunshine in Saint George, Utah, and I have taken full advantage of them, sunbathing daily at midday. But In addition, the great outdoors furnishes so many advantages beyond our life-giving sunlight. Or does it? First of all, sunlight directly effects human health through stimulating the skin to produce photoproducts. Hence, such life-saving products as vitamin D, serotonin, endorphin, nitric oxide, dopamine and brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) are increased. Furthermore, none of the other attributes of the great outdoors, such as the greenery and animal life, would be possible without the sun.

Recent research on the great outdoors

A recent study analyzed most of the health research that has been done on the benefits of the great outdoors.[1] The title of the research was: The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. It was an analysis of 143 studies. The researchers showed impressive results from spending time in the great outdoors, especially the green great outdoors, known as greenspace.

Health expectations derived from enjoying the great outdoors:

  • A reduction in diastolic blood pressure
  • Decreased preterm birth risk
  • A reduction in type two diabetes risk
  • Decreased all-cause mortality
  • A reduced risk of small size for gestational age
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular mortality
  • An increased incidence of self-reported health
  • Decreased incidence of stroke, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, asthma, and coronary heart disease
  • Decreased risk of neurological and cancer-related outcomes and respiratory mortality
  • Reduced negative emotions and fatigue

In addition, the authors noted that groups who exercised in the great outdoors had better health results. Indoor exercisers had results that were less than the outdoor exercisers. Thus, the great outdoors groups had significantly improved blood pressure, heart rate, fat percentage, BMI, cholesterol, depression and physical functioning.

While being in the great outdoors is exceptionally important to health, so is sunlight exposure. It is especially relevant that benefits enumerated for outdoor exposure are identical to those for regular, non-burning sun exposure. My new book, Embrace the Sun, delineates those healthful effects. It also cites research that indicates sun deprivation is as dangerous a cigarette smoking.[1]

Summary: Combine sun exposure with the great outdoors.

I opine that both safe sun exposure and exposure to the great outdoors, are vital to health. So, it is best not to neglect either. Happy sunning!


[1] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2016 Oct;280(4):375-87.



[1] Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, Andy Jones. The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research 166 (2018) 628–637.

[2] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2016 Oct;280(4):375-87.

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