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6 Ways the Sun Can Help Boost Your Health, Slim Your Waist, Ease Pain, and More

Longer days give us plenty of time for fun in the sun. And scientists say you can use those free solar rays to bolster your health!

Shrink your waist with a lakeside stroll.

Great news! You don’t have to slog on a treadmill or head to the gym to tighten up your midsection. On a nice day, simply enjoy a stroll outdoors at your favorite local lake or park, and you’ll trim inches significantly faster. When skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light, it releases stored fat into the bloodstream, where it can be burned for energy, shrinking fat cells, Canadian scientists say. Bonus: A study out of the UK found that soaking up nature’s scenery while you stroll lifts your mood 30 percent more than if you’d walked indoors.

Or sprinkle cinnamon! That dash of cinnamon on your oatmeal or Danish balances blood sugar and revs fat burn. So much so that eating 1 tsp. of the spice daily helps you shed nearly an inch from your waist within 12 weeks, a study in Clinical Nutrition found.

Even cloudy days recharge vitamin D.

Soaking up the sun spurs the production of vitamin D, but what if puffy clouds are overhead? Head outside for 10 minutes (sans sunscreen) between 10 am and 4 pm anyway! Turns out there are still enough rays to replenish your levels of D, Australian scientists say. That’s key since the nutrient aids the immune system, wards off depression, preserves memory and regulates blood pressure.

Boost joy by sipping coffee outside.

Turns out there’s a reason you feel not just more peppy but also more upbeat after sipping a cup of joe. Caffeine in the brew significantly increases good feelings by raising your brain’s level of two key hormones: dopamine and adrenaline. Now, Swedish investigators discovered that drinking your morning coffee or tea outdoors when the sun is shining more than doubles your happiness compared to sipping your brew inside. Credit goes to the blue wavelength light in the sun’s rays, which enhances caffeine-related changes in the brain, increasing its mood-lifting potency.

Or scroll early! For a quick smile, check your Facebook newsfeed between 8 am and 10 pm. A Cornell University study of 2.4 million social media users s reveals that this is when friends and family are most likely to share uplifting posts, which, in turn, uplifts you!

Ease aches and pains with a window seat.

If you’ve got back pain, arthritis or other ouches, you can speed healing simply by sitting in a sunny spot — inside or out. So say scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. In their study, surgery patients recovering in sunny hospital rooms required 22% less pain medication than those in dimly lit rooms. That’s because sunlight activates unique cells in the eye’s retina, which trigger the production of painkilling serotonin in the brain.

Or turn on tunes! Next time you’re achy, cue up your favorite playlist. Songs you love activate emotional pathways in the brain that compete with pain pathways, blotting out pain signals. The result: You’ll feel better far sooner, say University of Utah scientists.

Strengthen bones by kicking back.

Relaxing on your porch is a simple way to keep bones strong, a new Swiss study found. When the sun ratchets up the temperature, it alters microorganisms in the gut that help create new bone cells and slow wear and tear. In fact, scientists found that women who live in warmer regions have fewer hip fractures — a sure sign of denser bones.

Or upgrade breakfast! A smoothie made with yogurt boosts “good bugs” in the gut, which cuts osteoporosis risk by 50 percent, Swiss scientists say.

Prevent a cough by opening the curtains.

It’s glorious to let the light stream in on bright days. More than just a spirit lifter, it means you won’t miss a moment of fun because of a pesky cough. Ultraviolet rays are naturally antimicrobial, inactivating nearly 50 percent of viral and fungal particles floating through indoor air that can cause respiratory infections, a University of Oregon study reveals. And it works even through the thickest panes of glass.

Or swish H2O! To curb the risk of colds and sore throats by 40 percent, just gargle with water for 60 seconds twice daily, say Japanese scientists. It flushes bacteria and viruses from the throat.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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