Not sure about where you live, but here in Central Florida the weather has been gorgeous! It’s a great reminder of the importance of getting adequate amounts of sunlight for its vitamin D-boosting benefits. Recent research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that those with the lowest vitamin D levels have more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes over an eight-year period compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels. The researchers cite "decreased outdoor activity" as one reason that people may become deficient in vitamin D. Another recent study found an increased risk of heart attacks in those with low vitamin D levels.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is involved in a number of processes that are essential for good health, including the following:
• It helps improve muscle strength and immune function.
• It helps reduce inflammation.
• It promotes the absorption of calcium from the small intestine.
• It helps maintain adequate blood levels of the calcium and phosphate needed for bone formation, mineralization (incorporating minerals to increase strength and density), growth, and repair (1–3).
What is vitamin D and where can I get some?
Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin. It is the name given to a group of fat-soluble prohormones . Most people get much of the vitamin D they need through sunlight exposure. It can also be obtained through the diet, but very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. These foods include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and eggs. Smaller amounts are found in meat and cheese. Most dietary vitamin D comes from fortified foods, such as milk, juices, yogurt, bread, and breakfast cereals. Vitamin D can also be obtained through dietary supplements. Fortified foods and dietary supplements usually contain either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. A person’s vitamin D status is usually checked by measuring the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood serum.
Am I getting enough Vitamin D from the sun?
In the winter, it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. But spring and summer present a great opportunity to stock up on the nutrient. When the sun's UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. If you're fair skinned, experts say going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of the vitamin. Dark-skinned individuals and the elderly also produce less vitamin D, and many folks don't get enough of the nutrient from dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified milk.
What else is good about getting daily sun?
The sunshine vitamin may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon. What's more, sunlight has other hidden benefits—like protecting against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.
Given all the upsides of basking at least briefly in the summer sun, many experts now worry that public-health messages warning about skin cancer have gone overboard in getting people to cover up and seek the shade. U.S.News got in touch with Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University who led a study published in the February issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology. Her finding: Far more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much.
How much sun is it safe to get without sunscreen? It depends on how much skin is exposed and the time of day. If you're fair skinned and sunning yourself outside in a bathing suit at noon, you only need a few minutes without sunscreen. If you're already tan or of Hispanic origin, you need maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Black skin may require six times the sun exposure to make the same vitamin D levels as a very fair-skinned person.
And so what is the challenge for the week?
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK (BEGINNING MAY 2) IS TO GET YOURSELF OUTSIDE FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES A DAY. You have the continueing challenge to exercise 6 days a week but this week you also need to BE OUTSIDE FOR 10 MINUTES A DAY (And yes although you may take the Sabbath as a day free from exercise you can still go outside for 10 minutes on Sunday). You don’t have to do your 60 minutes of exercise outside. Feel free to do your hour of yoga (or whatever) in the gym and then go lay on your front lawn with the dog for 10 minutes. Or if you’d like, you can do part or all of your exercise outside. The important thing is that you get yourself outside in the daylight. Please enjoy, breath deeply, enjoy the trees and bushes and flowers. Notice the squirrels and birds. Rest your soul and soak up some vitamin D.
· I gave this challenge last year and got a lot of complaints about how cold it still is other places. I really hope if it’s still chilly where you live you can dress as warmly as needed (modestly exposing as much skin as you can stand) and still get yourself 10 minutes of outdoor time a day.
** If you consistently cannot get real sunshine. Think carefully about taking a daily Vitamin D supplement like http://www.amazon.com/Vitamin-1000-Liquid-Natural-Factors/dp/B003BHWXWC/ref=pd_sbs_hpc_7