Sun worshipping

What do you do when your front steps look like this?

and your car looks like this?

and your bike has practically disappeared?

It’s tempting to hibernate, drink hot chocolate and watch DVDs. Even Mr Bloomberg wants you to stay inside. But why stay at home when you can have snowball fights, go sledding, take beautiful photos and reclaim the streets. There’s another really good reason to go outside too. It’s this.

Sunlight provides us with our much needed Vitamin D. There’s been lots of controversy over Vitamin D and recent research into its benefits. The recurring issues are how much you really need, whether sunscreen prevents its production and whether deficiency is a cause of seasonal affective disorder. One of my favorite sites, Information is Beautiful, has a great visual on Vitamin D deficiency, indicating the best sources and the shockingly high value of the Vitamin D industry in the US, $460 million in 2009.

How do you get it? Although Vitamin D is present in some foods, including eggs, fish, cod liver oil and mushrooms, sunlight really is the best way to get your daily dose. And the amount you need varies by the color of your skin.

But why do we need Vitamin D? It’s produced in the skin from ultraviolet B rays and is absorbed into the body to help regulate calcium levels for healthy bones. It’s especially important for athletes putting a lot of stress on their bones and muscles and it helps to boost your immune system. Studies as to whether it prevents cancer and diabetes are still inconclusive but it can make you jump higher according to Runners World.

I’m in good company in recommending spending time outside when it’s cold. Dr Frank Lipman recommends taking a sun bath on your lunch break (I promise I didn’t read his article before I started writing this). But after reading a number of articles, I’m still skeptical about the need for additional high dosage supplements. The most recent recommended daily allowance is 400 – 600 IU and humans make at least 10,000 units of vitamin D within 30 minutes of full body exposure. You can probably get enough from 10-30 minutes of sun a few times a week. So stop supporting big pharma, go and build snowmen instead!

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