Enjoy the Sun to Improve Your Health
Summer. A wonderful time for beach days, weekend walks, and outdoor activities. A time for longer, warmer days, and for getting out to enjoy the sun!
But a healthy amount of sun exposure also provides several other benefits too. And the great news is, in order to receive those benefits, you don’t have to spend hours out in the sun.
Get Your Vitamins
Perhaps you have heard, a huge benefit to sun exposure, is something called Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a hormone that is synthesized in our skin when our skin is exposed to UVB light.
Vitamin D is responsible for regulating over 200 genes in the human body. It regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood, which are important for bone growth and remodeling, and increases the absorption of calcium when levels are low.
Although Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement and is included to a small extent in some foods such as oily fish, the best source is sunlight exposure, and more specifically when the UV index is at 3 or higher.
As Vitamin D is involved in the regulation of so many different genes in the body, when we don’t get enough, many systems in our body can be impacted which can contribute to things like bone weakness, decreased mood and energy levels, and several other conditions.
How much do I need?
Optimal vitamin D levels range between 30 to 100. Vitamin D levels are considered low and deficient when they are under 20.
When your aim is to get Vitamin D through sun exposure, aim for at least 50% of your skin to be exposed between 10am and 2pm, about 3 - 4 times per week. Wear shorts and a t-shirt, or even a bathing suit if you are heading to the beach.
The idea is that you want to be out in the sun when your local UV index is 3 or higher. The UV Index is an international standard measurement of how strong the UV radiation is from the sun. Its purpose is to help people protect themselves from UV light.
Weather reports often list the UV index and “The Weather Channel” app on your phone gives a minute to minute update of your local weather report that includes the UV index.
Sun exposure early and late in the day provides only UVA rays that don’t help us make Vitamin D and can cause skin damage. Because of this, it can be helpful to aim for being out during the times mentioned above or checking your weather app to familiarize yourself with the UV index when you’re about to head outside.
And as for the exact amount of time, this varies by person and can take a bit of trial and error. But essentially, the faster you burn, the less time you need. For someone who always burns and never tans, 10 – 15 minutes per day can be enough when the UV index is between 3 - 5, but for someone who never burns and has a naturally darker skin tone, they would do better with 40 – 60 minutes per day.
And as the UV index goes up, the less you need, so those numbers would decrease as the UV index rises. As we get 50 and older, we want to consider doubling our exposure.
When in doubt about how much sun is enough, if your skin is feeling warm, and definitely if you notice you are turning pink, get out the sun screen, put on some layers, or get under cover so you don’t overexpose your skin.
Can I Get Too Much?
Overexposure to sunlight can’t cause toxic levels of Vitamin D, because once the body reaches equilibrium with its process of absorption and synthesis, it’s able to store what isn’t needed, for example in the summer months, and utilize it in darker months.
If you choose to get your Vitamin D from supplementation, while staying out of the sun for various reasons, there is such a thing as too much supplementation. If you get your bloodwork checked and are at all concerned about your Vitamin D levels, we recommend discussing your levels with your physician so you can get guidance around the appropriate supplementation so you can be taking it safely.
Would you like some additional support? You are not alone, and change takes time! It’s a practice and often it can greatly benefit to reach out for support of a coach, friend, or mentor.
If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support. Give us a call.
If you are Whole Health Plan member and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.
You can explore our website to learn more about us as well. https://www.wfmmedical.com/
If you’d like to do a little more research yourself regarding sun exposure, here are some resources:
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:
Insufficient Sun Exposure Has Become a Real Public Health Problem (nih.gov)
Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin (nih.gov)
Sunlight and Vitamin D (nih.gov)
Quest Diagnostic Recommended Ranges for Vitamin D levels:
Vitamin D numbers: what they really mean (questdiagnostics.com)