Get out in the sun – Vitamin D FAQs
When I was a kid, my parents told me to play out in the sun and get some vitamin D. Like most kids, I reckoned this was a fantastic way to have a vitamin.
As we grow up, our bare feet that once trampled through the backyard become shoe-wearing feet pounding the pavement as we run errands. We spend more and more time working inside as adults, the rest of our days split between home, transport and family or friends time.
For those with young children, you may be interested to know that a recent UK study reported by the Telegraph found that children were spending a meagre average of 30 minutes playing outside every week.
With such a short amount of time outdoors, are we depriving ourselves of the opportunity to soak up that vitamin D and all of its benefits?
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone which helps to maintain a healthy body by controlling calcium levels in our bloodstream. It can be found in small amounts in foods like fatty fish and some dairy products, but the sun remains the main source of vitamin D, when our bodies are exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) B rays.
However there are also several factors which can influence vitamin D intake, such as cloud, smog and the melanin content in our skin. As UVB light radiation can't penetrate glass, warming yourself in that sun coming through the window won't give you the same vitamin D benefit you'd get outdoors.
In addition, the Victoria Better Health Channel explains that without sufficient vitamin D, both adults and children alike are prone to muscle pain and fragile bones.
New research by the University of Malaga also suggests that low levels of vitamin D can be linked to type 2 diabetes, with findings pointing towards vitamin D having a closer link to the blood sugar disorder than body fat or obesity.
While research is ongoing, it looks like combining outdoor time in the sun with regular exercise could possibly be a natural deterrent for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
How do I get more Vitamin D into my day?
Luckily, the answer for this one is fairly simple – get some fresh air and enjoy the sun.
While UV rays are one of the main causes of skin cancer, they are also our main source of vitamin D. Being safe in the sun, especially in Australia, is vitally important due to the scorching temperatures, so play it sun smart and go get that vitamin D.
Plan fun activities outside, like a walk or a day at the beach. It's often easy for children and adults to chill out watching TV, so giving some purpose to your outdoor time can make it more enjoyable and meaningful. If you have a backyard, maybe even muck in around the garden for a bit, or go for a picnic in your local park.
With so many options for having fun in the sun, it's easy to make sure you and your loved ones are getting your daily dose of sunshine – don't become one of the reported 1 billion people across the world with low vitamin D levels due to a lack of sun exposure.
SunSmart also has a nifty vitamin D tracker, available on their website, and also as part of their SunSmart app to help you gauge the right amount of UV exposure for your skin.
What do you know, mum was right to say go play outside.