Now that spring is finally upon us and the weather is starting to warm up, it’s good to know there’s a health benefit to getting out and soaking up some rays – they are the best way to boost your Vitamin D levels! Vitamin D is essential for the proper growth and development of bones and muscles and increasing evidence is now linking low Vitamin D levels to a number of medical conditions.
Vitamin D can be found naturally in fish and eggs, and is sometimes added to margarines and milks, however, it is very difficult to achieve adequate intakes from food alone. Therefore, for most of the population, adequate Vitamin D levels are maintained from exposure to sunlight.
But how do you strike the balance between gaining enough sun exposure to maintain Vitamin D levels and not increasing your risk of skin cancer? Well, the amount of exposure required depends on the UV level and the time of the year. At times of the year when the UV rays are low (less than 3), generally 2-3 hours of sun exposure spread over the week will be enough to maintain your Vitamin D status. In Victoria, the UV rays are generally the lowest between May and August. But now that we have moved into September, the UV rays begin to rise and less time is required. For most people, 6-7 minutes of exposure to the face and arms mid morning and mid afternoon will be sufficient. People with darker skin may requires 3-6 times longer sun exposure to gain the same benefits.
As the importance of Vitamin D status has been increasing in recent years, it is best to know your level so you can act accordingly. Ask your doctor to include a Vitamin D test with your next lot of blood tests, so you can assess your status and if it is low you can discuss this with your doctor.
In the meantime… Enjoy the sunshine!