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sunny beachThere are books and articles a plenty expressing the power of vitamin D because it simply cannot be overstated. Vitamin D is crucial for bone growth and strength, immune system function, and skin health among many other things. Many studies also suggest it supports hearth health and weight management. Vitamin D is found in small amounts in some foods, and it can be added to the diet through supplements. However, the overwhelming natural source of this vitamin is the sun.

Sunlight exposure tends to be a polarizing issue with many deviating toward either unsafe overexposure or unhealthy underexposure. Most know the dangers of the former, but by avoiding the sun altogether, whether intentionally or by the nature of our jobs and indoor lifestyles, we may be reducing our risk for skin cancer but are opening ourselves up to the harmful problems caused by Vitamin D deficiencies. Finding the right balance of safe and healthy sun exposure may be a challenge, but with a bit of practice and an understanding of the factors involved, it can be far less tricky. Here’s what to keep in mind when figuring out your sweet spot in soaking up some healthy rays.


Where you live

Where you reside in the world plays a role in how much UV light is actually reaching you at any given time. The farther from the equator you live, the less UV rays from the sun will actually make it to you here on Earth. If you live closerer to the equator, you can get high UV exposure year round.

The color of your skin

We all have melanin, a pigment in our skin that helps protect the skin from damage via sun exposure. Darker skin contains more melanin, so it requires more exposure to get vitamin D. Those with fair skin will get vitamin D much faster but will also burn easier.

Age

As we age our bodies have a harder time producing vitamin D due to a reduction in skin thickness, dietary intake, less sun exposure and other physiological factors. Vitamin D deficiency is a much greater risk in older individuals.

Time of Day

Our skin will produce more vitamin D during the middle of the day between noon and 3 pm. If you can get outside for a little while at lunchtime, try to find a sunny spot and soak up some rays while you eat.

Amount of skin exposed

Larger areas of the body produces more Vitamin D than small areas when exposed to sunlight, understandably. Even if you can’t lay out in a bathing suit, exposing more skin while outside can help you get more Vitamin D benefits in a short amount of time.


central park sunbathers

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

After taking these factors into consideration, a good rule of thumb is to limit your sun exposure to half the amount of time it takes for you to see redness on your skin. Limit your exposure to short time intervals to find your safe zone, and don’t allow yourself to burn. And if you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, use sunblock and a healthy dose of common sense.

What are your favorite ways to safely enjoy the sunshine?

 

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