Today’s Los Angeles Times has a front-page story on the newly discovered benefits of Vitamin D, which is formed as a result of the sun’s UV rays hitting your unprotected skin. The story cites research which discovered that people who get a regular dose of sunshine enjoy a significantly reduced risk for heart attacks, diabetes, and even breast cancer. This comes on top of Vitamin D’s long association with healthier bones.
Doctors attribute the rise in diseases associated with a deficiency of Vitamin D to modern civilization’s move indoors for work and entertainment. The doc’s also believe this deficiency may help explain why more heart attacks hit people living in higher latitudes during winter, when there’s less opportunity to enjoy direct sunlight. For now, the medical establishment isn’t sure why or how Vitamin D/sunlight improves our health, but they feel pretty strongly that there’s a connection. For me at least, it helps explain why stepping out into the sun can feel so good and why Scandinavians use light therapy to deal with their winter blues. I can tell that something chemical is going on beyond a feeling of warmth.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should chuck your SPF 50 in the trash and spend all day soaking up UV rays. The article explains that Caucasians can get all the D they need from a max of 20 minutes outside with uncovered skin each day. Any more, the article warns, will likely lead to a sunburn and a much higher risk for skin cancer. People with darker skin may need up to an hour in the sun to reach their daily D quota.
What’s the take-away from this good news? Kick your kids outside (like your parents did to you), take a walk around the block during your lunch hour, or simply enjoy the fact that medical science just gave you another reason to indulge your passion for the outdoors.