The Best Reason to Eat Lunch Outside

You'll not only kick a stressful morning to the curb, you'll also be protecting your ticker.

May 4, 2012

Relax, read a book...ward off heart disease.

Stop dropping crumbs all over your keyboard and get outside to eat your lunch. In addition to serving as a serious stress reliever, the extra dose of sunlight will also be protecting your heart, according to a new study in the journal Nature Medicine.


In the study, a group of mice was exposed to a light box that gave off illumination similar to the outdoors. When researchers induced heart attacks in the mice, the light-treated rats showed signs that they had been protected from heart attack–induced tissue damage.

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The researchers also discovered why. When you go in the sun, heart-protective proteins (called Period 2 proteins) appear more often in your body. The light-treated mice had 4 times as many Period 2 proteins in their hearts compared to mice who weren’t exposed to it, researchers found.

Here’s how it works: When you go into cardiac arrest, your heart delivers less oxygen to your body. But Period 2 proteins help your body use oxygen more efficiently, so you can survive on less, says lead researcher Tobias Eckle, PhD, professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

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The new findings may help explain why Southern Europeans are less likely to suffer heart attacks than Northern Europeans—it might be the Mediterranean diet, but it could be something else, says Eckle—sunlight exposure.

Your move: Soak up a few moments of sunshine each day, ideally around noon when the sun is strongest. Not to mention, vitamin D released by skin exposure to direct sunlight is linked to everything from lower rates of depression to relieving your allergies.

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