Why Sunshine Is Your Ultimate Weight-Loss Secret Weapon

Show me the light!

If you keep up with recent studies, you already know that exercising outside in the winter time is a great way to lose weight, because exercising in the cold burns more calories than exercising in warmer temperatures, due to a process called thermogenesis. Apparently, though, there's yet another reason going outside in the wintertime can be good for weight loss, and the best part about this one is that it doesn't even require moving around.

According to a new study by the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry that was published in the journal Scientific Reports, sunlight does more than just lift your mood. It also shrinks fat cells. "When the sun's blue light wavelengths—the light we can see with our eye—penetrate our skin and reach the fat cells just beneath, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don't store as much fat," Peter Light, senior author of the study, who is a professor of pharmacology and the director of the Alberta Diabetes Institute (not to mention very aptly named for this study), said.

If you think about it, this breakthrough discovery explains in part why people may store more fat in the wintertime, as well as why people in hotter countries seems unfairly slim.

"If you flip our findings around, the insufficient sunlight exposure we get eight months of the year living in a northern climate may be promoting fat storage and contribute to the typical weight gain some of us have over winter," Light said.

Granted, Light cautions that more research needs to be done before scientists can confirm that spending more time in the sun is a great way to lose weight.

"For example, we don't yet know the intensity and duration of light necessary for this pathway to be activated," he said.

The fascinating thing is that the entire discovery was essentially accidental. Light and his colleagues were looking for ways to engineer white fat cells (which store "bad fat") to produce insulin when exposed to light, which is what led them to find out that so-called subcutaneous white adipose tissue actually shrinks in sunlight.

The discovery can have major implications for the future of weight loss and the way in which we can use sunlight in order to treat obesity.

Now, obviously, sunlight can have harmful effects as well, as too much exposure can lead to skin cancer, which is why it's important to always wear sunscreen.

According to the According to the World Health Organization, however, you only need to get between getting 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face two to three times a week to get the mood-boosting effects of vitamin D. So if it's not too cold outside, then consider going for a long walk or jog and soaking up that sweet sunshine (and turn on Sweatcoin  while you're at it so you can make money at the same time).

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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