Okinawa sunshine is healthy but only in reasonable doses
By David Higgins
In Chatan Town, there are several tanning salons, and signage scattered about town advertises where you can go to get that ‘safe’ full-body bronzing. Many of us are attracted to the fresh tawny ‘just-returned-from-the-sunny-shores-of-Hawaii’ look, and some even go to the extreme of paying to get the look at local sun tanning salons.
I can definitely appreciate this desire to don the allusion to a ‘sun touched’ lifestyle as much as anyone else stuck in an office for much of the week, but living in Okinawa, there is no need to pay for a suntan when you can get the real thing for free while enjoying an ocean breeze and taking in some much needed vitamin D.
A relaxing place to lay out the blanket, read a book and enjoy a cool beverage while getting a sun tan is Araha Beach. Fortunately, this sandy beach is oceanside and holds premium real estate for slathering on the UV protection and digging toes into the sand while allowing the sun to work it’s magic. To top it off, there is always a refreshing ocean breeze and easy access to take a dip in the sea when you need a cool down. The sun in Okinawa is extremely strong in the summer so if you don’t want to get burned, I wouldn’t recommend laying out in direct sun for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time if you arrive at the beach after 10 a.m.
As long as you take necessary precautions and breaks, tanning outside is much healthier than tanning beds. Outside, exposed to the sun’s rays, there are many ways that we can protect ourselves from the dangers of the UV rays while still being able to enjoy outdoor activities. First of all, stay hydrated and always wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. Sunscreen is a must. Any convenience store will carry a wide range of products that sell for about ¥500 a bottle. I always buy the 50+ SPF. It is recommended that you reapply every two hours to assure that don’t return home resembling a boiled red lobster.
In North America, the FDA is proposing a 17+ age restriction on who is allowed to ‘bare all’ at tanning salons due to indisputable medical proof that they contribute to an increased likeliness of developing skin cancer. The winter season on Okinawa is often sunny, but because of the wind chill factor, a trip to the beach for a tan is more likely to give you a cold than a bronze hue. In this case, I recommend going to the tanning salon and getting bronzed if you want your body to look like the outside of a sexy almond all year round. Be sure to educate yourself on the dangers and precautions before committing to this risky activity.
A major benefit to sun tanning is immune system boosting vitamin D. When you are not in the sun, your body is not able to readily produce vitamin D. It is proven that depletion of this vitamin can lead to increased sadness and sickness. You can supplement with daily capsules or step into a tanning capsule to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D production in your body. If you decide to step into the tanning capsule, keep track of the number of visits you make. Believe it or not, there is such thing as tanning addiction. Why this occurs is still in a grey area but evidence does indicate that an increased release of endorphins during the tanning process causes a pleasurable effect that may underlie the addiction.
Personally, I find that a day of playing in the sunshine and returning home in the evening with the glow of a tan has a revitalizing effect on my body and mind. It is definitely something I look forward to doing as much as possible. This type of behavior could be considered a ‘healthy addiction’ and should be promoted as part of a healthy lifestyle as opposed to the alternative of staying indoors in false lighting and stale air that leads to one becoming paler and weaker without exposure to bone strengthening vitamin D.
Throughout this warm sunny season, be sure to keep a tote bag packed with water, UV protection, good hat, bathing suit, book and a frisbee at ready, and there will be no adequate excuses not to go outside to enjoy natures’ healing sun rays. Just remember to drink lots of water and slather on the UV protection cream before you head out to assure that you and your loved ones will have many more days full of sunshine and outdoor play to look forward to your happy, healthy future.