5 Science-Backed Benefits Of Enjoying A Return To Warmer Weather

Goodbye seasonal depression, increased spread of disease, and vitamin D deficiency — spring has officially sprung!

Alexandra Walker-Jones
Apr 6 · 6 min read

don’t know about where you are, but where I’m based, across the pond in London, we were lucky enough to get a few gorgeous days of warmer weather — only to be plunged back into the low 40’s without warning for the next couple of weeks.

Thankfully, there is hope! Summer is indeed just around the corner, and along with the increasing balmy appearance of the sun comes a range of helpful benefits for the healthy functioning of the human body.

Here Are 5 Science-Backed Benefits Of Enjoying A Return To Warmer Weather:

  1. Increase in Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is well-documented within scientific studies for its positive impact on diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even type-2 diabetes (1–5).

However, it’s estimated that over 1 billion people are either deficient or insufficient in vitamin D — in this case, deficiency is defined as levels less than 20 ng/mL, with insufficiency occurring at levels less than 30 ng/mL (6).

Thankfully, most people in the world do meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight, with the effect naturally multiplied during the spring and summer months.

This is because type B UV radiation (also known as UVB) has a wavelength with the ability to penetrate uncovered skin, converting cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to pre-vitamin D3, which can later become vitamin D3.

With that said, certain groups are more likely than others to suffer from a deficiency of this essential nutrient including:

  • Breastfed infants
  • Older adults (the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases with age)
  • People with limited sun exposure
  • People with darker skin (higher melanin pigmentation equals lower vitamin D production)
  • Individuals who are obese (greater amounts of subcutaneous fat sequester more vitamin D, lowering overall levels in the process)
  • Individuals who have undergone gastric bypass surgery (the procedure bypasses part of the upper small intestine where the vitamin is absorbed)
  • People with conditions that limit fat absorption (vitamin D is fat-soluble, so its absorption depends on the gut’s ability to absorb dietary fat)

Further to this, there are various factors such as time of day, time of year, cloud cover, skin melanin content, and the use of sunscreen that may all impact UV radiation and, therefore, the body’s ability to synthesize the production of vitamin D from sunlight. For this reason, it can be hard to estimate the degree of sun exposure necessary for maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D.

Some experts and researchers recommend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes of uncovered sun exposure on the face, hands, legs, and particularly the upper arms between 2 and 7 times per week (and preferably between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) — but it can be easy to see why these recommendations are less than perfect!

P.S. It’s a fact that UVB radiation can’t get through glass — so sunbathing through a window sadly won’t help you get your daily vitamin D. Try to get outside to enjoy the weather instead!

2. Mood And Memory Booster

Research findings consistently suggest that warmer weather (and thus higher bioavailability of vitamin D) may play a direct role in the treatment of mood and sleep disorders such as depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (7–9).

These studies highlight an increase in exposure to vitamin D as particularly beneficial for maintaining healthy levels of regulatory hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, with the strongest effects being observed among female populations (10).

What’s more is that science suggests higher temperatures may impact a selection of mental and cognitive performance measures such as attention span, working memory, alertness, and reaction time (11).

This is hypothesized to occur as a result of an elevated body temperature — a condition far easier to maintain sunbathing in the scorching heat of summer than wrapped in layers upon layers of clothing during the colder months!

3. Lowered Risk Of Getting Sick

Another benefit of the rising temperatures is a drastic reduction in the risks and rates of infectious bacteria. There’s a reason flu and cold season occurs during the winter months — most often between December and February — and it’s surprisingly not really anything to do with being cold.

That myth about how going outside with wet hair during the winter will give you a cold? Totally untrue!

For the most part, the risk of spreading and developing sickness increases during the colder months and decreases during the warmer months, simply as a result of the time people tend to spend in close proximity indoors (12, 13).

More time inside the house means a much higher chance of touching the same infected surfaces, or even inhaling the virus from someone infected nearby!

As the weather outside warms, people naturally spend more time outdoors in the fresh air. Most people also increase their levels of activity and exercise during the summer which contributes to the maintenance of a healthy immune system, and a lowered risk of becoming ill. There’s no doubt that a greater intake of vitamin D also aids in this process!

4. Better For Heart And Lungs

Saying goodbye to cooler temperatures also means bidding adieu to the stressors placed on our bodies by prolonged attempts at fighting the cold.

This is because chronic exposure to colder environments can result in morphological changes such as an increase in the mucous present along membranes within the mouth, throat, chest, and lungs, as well as the heightened experience of symptoms related to pulmonary heart disease, bronchitis, hypertension and edema (14).

In addition, when it comes to having to regulate one’s body heat more frequently — such as during those colder months of the year — blood pressure can become raised to levels that surpass the limits of what is healthy for the long term (15).

5. Reduced Mortality Rate

Bizarrely, one scientifically substantiated effect of a shift towards warmer weather includes a major reduction in mortality rates and overall deaths. An analysis of data from 89 different counties across the United States suggests that an increase in outdoor temperature — although not necessarily an increase in sunlight exposure or vitamin D — is responsible for the phenomenon (16).

In fact, no matter which measure of temperature the researchers used in their investigations (whether that was average temperature, maximum summer temperature, minimum winter temperature, or heating/cooling degree days) all results pointed to the same conclusion: warmer weather means fewer deaths.

As it turns out, the cold is a much bigger killer than people might be giving it credit for. Subsequent studies have even determined that a mere 2.5°C increase in temperatures would cut deaths nationwide from anywhere between 37,000 to 41,000 per year (17).

Huh. Who knew?

Alexandra Walker-Jones — April 2021

Text References:

  1. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2007;357:266–281.
  2. Wallis DE, Penckofer S, Sizemore GW. The “sunshine deficit” and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2008;118:1476–1485.
  3. Pittas AG, Lau J, Hu FB, Dawson-Hughes B. Review: The role of vitamin D and calcium in Type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2007;92:2017–2029.
  4. Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues in mental health nursing, 31(6), 385–393. https://doi.org/10.3109/01612840903437657
  5. Lee JH, O’Keefe JH, Bell D, Hensrud DD, Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency: And important, common, and easily treatable cardiovascular risk factor? Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2008;52:1949–1956.
  6. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2007;357:266–281.
  7. Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues in mental health nursing, 31(6), 385–393. https://doi.org/10.3109/01612840903437657
  8. Berk M, Sanders KM, Pasco JA, Jacka FN, Williams LJ, Hayles AL, Dodd S. Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in depression. Medical Hypotheses. 2007;69:1316–1319.
  9. Bodnar LM, Wisner KL. Nutrition and depression: Implications for improving mental health among childbearing-aged women. Biological Psychiatry. 2005;58:679–685.
  10. Murphy PK, Wagner CL. Vitamin D and mood disorders among women: An integrative review. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. 2008;53(5):440–446.
  11. Wright, Kenneth & Hull, Joseph & Czeisler, Charles. (2003). Relationship Between Alertness, Performance, and Body Temperature in Humans. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology. 283. R1370–7. 10.1152/ajpregu.00205.2002.
  12. Fares A. (2013). Factors influencing the seasonal patterns of infectious diseases. International journal of preventive medicine, 4(2), 128–132.
  13. National Research Council (US) Committee on Climate, Ecosystems, Infectious Diseases, and Human Health. Under the Weather: Climate, Ecosystems, and Infectious Disease. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 4, Climate Influences on Specific Diseases. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222258/
  14. Giesbrecht GG. The respiratory system in a cold environment. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995 Sep;66(9):890–902. PMID: 7487830.
  15. Ikäheimo TM, Lehtinen T, Antikainen R, Jokelainen J, Näyhä S, Hassi J, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Laatikainen T, Jousilahti P, Jaakkola JJ. Cold-related cardiorespiratory symptoms among subjects with and without hypertension: the National FINRISK Study 2002. Eur J Public Health. 2014 Apr;24(2):237–43. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckt078. Epub 2013 Jun 22. PMID: 23794677.

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Alexandra Walker-Jones

Written by

Writer and published author with an international background in psychology, nutrition, and creative writing. I’m just here to learn ;) awalkerjones.com

BeingWell

BeingWell

A Medika Life Publication for the Medical Community

Alexandra Walker-Jones

Written by

Writer and published author with an international background in psychology, nutrition, and creative writing. I’m just here to learn ;) awalkerjones.com

BeingWell

BeingWell

A Medika Life Publication for the Medical Community

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