Vitamin D is sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and rightly so because, particularly here in the UK, this is our best source. Our bodies have a clever way of making vitamin D from the rays of the sun. However, it is important to be aware that in the UK, the sun is not positioned high enough in the sky throughout Winter (from October to April) for us to make vitamin D from it.
There are dietary sources, such as eggs, oily fish and mushrooms, but most of us do not eat enough of these to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D plays an important role in bone, teeth and muscle health, by helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Having low levels of vitamin D could increase the risk of health conditions such as rickets in childhood or osteomalacia in older age.
If you have little or no sun exposure, because you rarely spend time in the sunshine or if you cover your skin when you are outside, then you should have a vitamin D supplement all year round. And even if you have been outside in the sunshine during summer, you should still consider taking a supplement during the wintertime at the very least. The recommendation for the general population aged four years and older is 10 µg (400 IU) of vitamin D per day, and so this would be a sensible supplement dose to go for.
How to enjoy the sunshine and still stay active?
Now is a great time to get out in the sun and build up your vitamin D levels, and what better way than with some exercise….
- Tennis – perhaps one of the UK’s most iconic sporting events, Wimbledon, has inspired you to grab your racket and have a little knock around. Better yet, some local councils have tennis courts that are free to use and don’t require booking.
- Make your own gym – maybe you are use to working out indoors, at the gym. Now the sun is shining why not take your regime outside. Instead of going on the treadmill, you could get outside and run along the roads and through the parks or even do some trail running. If you would prefer to do some strength training, you could create an weightless circuit to do in the park.
- Gardening – now that the sun in shining and we are able to enjoy being outdoors, you may want to give your garden a bit of a spruce up. Whether that be mowing the lawn, getting rid of the weeds, or maybe even adding some colour by planting some flowers.
- Walking – the thought of going for a run when the temperature is reaching the high twenties may not be too appealing unless you’ve got a nice cold pool to jump in straight after. Instead, put your shoes on and go for a walk. Perhaps there is a nice scenic route you can explore, or even just enjoy the colourful flowers that are in bloom now.
Be cautious about too much sun exposure…
There is a fine balance between spending time in the sun to allow for the production of vitamin D and having too much sun exposure that can lead to sun burn, skin cancer and premature ageing. If applied correctly, sun-cream can prevent the production of vitamin D. Although there isn’t a set rule of how long you need to be out in the sun to produce enough vitamin D, it doesn’t need to be for very long – you will have made enough vitamin D for the day before your skin begins to feel warm or look flushed. So perhaps a useful tip would be to have short bouts (less than 10 minutes) of exposure to the sun, and if you know you will be out for longer then take some sun-cream with you to apply to prevent yourself from burning.
And remember, no matter what you’re doing this summer, stay hydrated!
For further information on keeping active see: http://loveyourgut.com/getting-gut-healthy/gut-active/