Can Sunshine and Fresh Air Increase Your Lifespan?

pilates & awesome ageing Mar 24, 2024
THe person is exercising in the sun and fresh by doing Pilates


"By all means, never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air you can. Whenever and wherever possible, wear shorts or sunsuits outdoors, and let the lifegiving ultraviolet rays reach and penetrate into every skin pore of your body.”  Joseph Pilates

Modern life means that so many of us spend the majority of our time indoors in artificial environments without fresh air or sunshine. We are continually warned to avoid too much sun exposure, especially in Australia as it can cause skin cancer.  Which advice should we follow to ensure we maintain good health as we age?


Sunlight Is Essential  For Humans


Many of the original images of Joseph Pilates teaching a mat class or practicing the exercises himself are outdoors in the sun and fresh air wearing only brief shorts as he advises us to do in his book,  "Return to Life Through Contrology."  He was following his instincts but some of the longest-living people in the world who have reached 100 years of age have regular outdoor time in the sun pursuing hobbies such as gardening and walking.  Research suggests sun avoidance has been linked to increased risk of colorectal and breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

What  Are The Benefits of Sunlight Exposure?


Vitamin D Synthesis: Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health, immune function, and regulation of mood.  Adequate vitamin D levels are important for calcium absorption, promoting strong bones and teeth.

Mood Enhancement: Sunlight exposure stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Increased serotonin levels can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood, and reduce stress.

Regulation of Circadian Rhythm: Exposure to natural light helps regulate the body's internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. This helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle, improves sleep quality, and enhances overall alertness and cognitive function during the day.

 Enhanced Immune Function: Sunlight exposure boosts the production of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in modulating the immune system. Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with a reduced risk of infections, autoimmune diseases, and certain cancers.

Blood Pressure Regulation: Sunlight exposure has been shown to lower blood pressure by promoting the release of nitric oxide, a compound that helps dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. This may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and stroke.

Improved Cognitive Function: Sunlight exposure has been linked to enhanced cognitive function, including better memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. This may be attributed to the mood-boosting effects of sunlight and its role in regulating circadian rhythms.

Bone Health: Adequate sunlight exposure helps maintain optimal levels of vitamin D, which is important for calcium absorption and bone mineralization. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially in older adults.


What Happens If You Have Too Much Sun Exposure?


Severe sunburn can lead to blistering and peeling of the skin and if this occurs regularly can lead to skin cancer.  UV radiation can also damage the eyes, increasing the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions. Prolonged exposure to sunlight without proper eye protection can cause irritation, inflammation, and long-term damage to the delicate tissues of the eyes. Excessive sun exposure can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and reducing its ability to fight off diseases. This can increase the risk of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems.  Sun exposure, particularly in hot and dry climates, can increase the risk of dehydration. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause excessive sweating and fluid loss, leading to dehydration if adequate fluids are not consumed to replace those lost.


Moderation In All Things


When my mother was recently hospitalised for almost 2 weeks in Concord Hospital, I looked longingly at the balcony outside her window that was permanently closed. I knew some fresh air and sunlight would lift her spirits and aid her recovery but it was out of the question.  When the hospital was constructed in the early 1940s just before Joseph Pilates wrote his book in 1945, the importance of sunshine and fresh air was understood and patients were able to convalesce on the balcony and experience the benefits of fresh air and sunshine if appropriate for their condition. Now, patients are confined to an artificial environment to recover which can't possibly be as beneficial. 


How Can You Enjoy the Benefits of the Sunshine and Fresh Air and Minimise the Risks?



Getting the benefits of sunlight while minimising the risks involves striking a balance between enjoying sun exposure for its positive effects such as vitamin D synthesis and mood enhancement, while also protecting yourself from harmful UV radiation.  Here are some tips to help you achieve this balance:

Limit Sun Exposure During Peak Hours: The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to avoid prolonged sun exposure during these times.

Cover Up: Wear protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) to shield your skin from direct sunlight if you are in the sun during the peak hours.

Seek Shade: When outdoors, seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or other shelters, especially during peak sun hours.

Gradually Increase Sun Exposure: If you're not used to spending time in the sun, gradually increase your exposure to avoid sunburn and allow your skin to adjust.

Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, as sun exposure can lead to dehydration.

Protect Your Eyes: Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Monitor UV Index: Check the UV index before going outside. The UV index indicates the strength of UV radiation and helps you plan outdoor activities accordingly.

Regular Skin Checks: Keep an eye on your skin for any changes, such as new moles or changes in existing ones. If you notice anything unusual, consult a dermatologist.

Practice Pilates Outdoors: Several of my clients were setting up mats outside last autumn/winter and following my on-demand videos while getting the benefits of sunlight and fresh air. They found it more invigorating than working out indoors.  To do this, I suggest you monitor the weather and if it's not suitable switch to indoor sessions. It all comes down to moderation.

If you are ready to start Pilates, which you can do outdoors and experience all the benefits that this brings, email me at [email protected] to get started.  Alternatively, you can book an Initial Assessment with me here or  take the free 10 day trial of JS Mind Body Pilates, my online studio, and start straight away.  It would be my pleasure to assist you on your Pilates journey to enjoying good health and fitness as you age!






If you are ready to take control of your own health and fitness then download your free copy of my detailed guide.

Learn more about what sort of people benefit from Pilates and how it can help you too. I separate the myths from the facts and share actual case studies of my clients who have achieved life-changing results from my unique Pilates program.