Indulging in Guilty Pleasures Is Actually Good for You (in Small Doses)

Shopping, chocolate, sunshine and even gossiping can be healthy (in moderation). Find out when to indulge and when you're overdoing it (13 Photos)

Jill Provost on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:40AM

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Indulging in Guilty Pleasures Is Actually Good for You (in Small Doses)

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Why it’s OK: It’s no wonder a good mood is referred to as a “sunny” disposition. Basking in the sun’s ultraviolet rays stimulates the production of endorphins -- those feel-good chemicals linked to exercise. And when exposed to the sun’s UV-B rays, your skin manufactures vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin that helps keep bones healthy, and may protect against autoimmune diseases and some cancers.

When to indulge: For vitamin D, spend time in the sun sans sunscreen (which blocks D production) during the middle of the day, when UV-B rays can penetrate the atmosphere, says Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D., professor at Boston University School of Medicine and author of The Vitamin D Solution. If you have fair skin, you can get the vitamin D you need (1500-2000 IUs for most adults) by exposing your arms and legs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the spring, summer, and fall for 10-15 minutes, three or four times per week. If you have dark skin, you’ll need 5 to 10 times as much exposure, says Holick.

Don’t overdo it: Too much sun is responsible for 90 percent of wrinkles, age spots and other age-related skin changes. UV exposure resulting in sunburns is to blame for 65 percent of all melanoma cases (the most deadly form of skin cancer; however, occupational sun exposure has been demonstrated to decrease the risk of melanoma), and 90 percent of other skin cancers. When spending more than 10-15 minutes outside -- especially at the beach or park -- wear sunscreen from head to toe and reapply every two hours.

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