Did you know that between 40-75% of people are deficient in vitamin D? Vitamin D is so important that in a study that compared individuals who were getting high levels of vitamin D vs. those with low levels, those with low levels proved to be more than twice as likely to get heart disease. Interestingly, though, we currently have an unlimited source for vitamin D—the sun! However, the problem that we face is achieving just the right amount of sun exposure so that we don’t put ourselves in danger of the bad stuff that can come from too much sun (e.g. sunburn)
According to Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University, the duration of safe sun exposure depends on the complexion of the individual. For example, fair skinned individuals will only need about 10 minutes of unprotected sun whereas medium tones may need just 15-20 minutes and darker tones may need up to 90 minutes of unprotected sun to get your daily requirements of vitamin D.
To maximize the beneficial effects of soaking up the sun, it is best to get your sun time in when the sun is at its highest point (shoot for later in the day when it’s a little hotter outside). UVB rays, the beneficial rays that have your body make vitamin D, won’t pass through the atmosphere unless the sun is at least fifty degrees above the horizon. Whether or not you can get UVB through the sun’s rays depends on several factors, including your longitude and latitude, as well as the time of day. (If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty details, use this tool to check it out. Enter today’s date, your state, and city to see what times of day the sun is above 50 degrees in your area.)
It’s evident that the mentioned time durations are pretty precise numbers and no one wants to have fun in the sun while constantly checking their watch, but turns out using a timer might be a good idea because the alternative is getting our vitamin D from food, which seems to be quite difficult for many people!
So, while it’s nice and sunny out, go soak up some much-needed vitamin D! But of course, you don’t want to get a burn, please set your timers and bring your sunscreen and protective gear!
Photo credit: Aldo Tapia