Sunlight could improve your running

Could June 21 be a good day to try to set a PB?

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Most of us love the sunshine and today on this longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere there is plenty of it, but scientists recently came up with evidence suggesting it was good for race performances too.

Initial findings, from a study conducted by the University of the West of Scotland, suggest UVA could have some interesting, positive effects on your endurance.

The study, published in March, suggests that, exposure to UVA could harness the endurance-boosting powers of nitric oxide in a similar manner to beetroot juice. 

Nitric oxide can make your muscles work more efficiently during endurance exercise. It widens, relaxes, and dilates blood vessels, which in turn means there’s more oxygen being transported to your muscles. More oxygen means running faster, with more efficiency and less fatigue. In the case of UVA, sunlight converts nitrate to nitrite and then to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide also has other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and regulating blood sugar.

But, as with every early finding, there are more questions than actual results. The study conservatively concludes that the data “suggests that exposure to sunlight has a meaningful acute impact on metabolic function”. So, don’t jump on the sun lounger just yet. 

With that in mind, we should also point out that it’s obviously not advisable to overdose – however much you might want that endurance boost – on UVA because it can  contribute to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers. 

So, yes, go out and enjoy the uplifting power of the sun but take steps to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UVA by wearing high-factor suncreen. After all, you know you can enjoy the supercharging powers of nitric oxide by eating a good portion of nitrate-rich leafy greens and beetroot.