Hello, sunshine – how important vitamin D is for your health

by Lisa Ma on Sunday 08 January 2023

3 min read

With what felt like an entire year’s worth of overcast clouds and incessant rain draining our motivations, summer is here! Hello sunshine, beach days and balmy nights full of great times.

In contrast to this, why is it that we feel a little moodier in colder months? Well, possibly because our body is lacking sun exposure - specifically vitamin D. Okay, lovers of winter might say otherwise! The sun comes out during winter too, but for shorter periods of time and that’s where the shortfall lies.

It’s no secret that vitamin D is an essential nutrient, best known for its role in bone health and immune function. It’s often referred to as the Sunshine Vitamin because our bodies can produce it when exposed to ultraviolet light, and most people meet at least part of their daily requirement for vitamin D this way, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Sun and serotonin


As the sun hits your skin, your brain is triggered to release a hormone called serotonin. The same chemical is released when you go on a long run, eat a piece of chocolate or hold the hand of your significant other - it’s a feel-good hormone. And don’t we all want a lot of that?

So when your serotonin levels dip, which typically occur more often during winter due to the lack of vitamin D promoting its production of release, you may feel down in the dumps or be at a higher risk of seasonal mood disorders. Before you coup yourself in and give yourself the excuse that you’re 'not feeling it today', try going out for a walk in the sun and see how your mood changes.

Benefits of sunshine


Some sunshine (approximately 3 minutes in the early morning or late afternoon) goes a long way and its benefits come back full circle. The physiological regulation of your hormones through the absorption of vitamin D also lifts your mental wellbeing and therefore, increases your quality of life.

Below are just a few reasons why you should take a step outside today:

  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces stress
  • Supports cognitive function
  • Bone development and strength
  • Regulates absorption of calcium
  • Helps with hormone functions and nervous system regulation
  • Maintains a healthy immune system

Sunburn

So yes, sun = good. But do not take it as an excuse to sun tan like a lizard on the beach for hours without the necessary precautions against sunburn, premature aging and prevent the onset of skin cancer.

We all love a great summer glow, but 'to get enough vitamin D from the sun without risking sun cancer, you need to consider your skin type, where you live, the time of year and the time of day.' – Health Direct.

We're not here to scare you, we're here to inspire a healthy absorption of UVA and UVB rays.

Sun safety tips

The tried and true saying from Sid the Seagull - 'slip, slop, slap' couldn’t be more applicable:

  • Slip on sun protective clothing (this might be excessive if it’s hot out, but great if you’re prone to sunburn)
  • Slop on sunscreen (remember to always re-apply every 2-3 hours)
  • Slap on a hat (walk along trees or buildings that provide shade)

With the addition of two new S's added by Cancer Council in 2007:

  • Seek shade (everyone loves a beach umbrella)
  • Slide on some sunglasses (make sure you choose polarised lenses for better protection)

Summer fun

Add some extra doses of dopamine into your life this summer and join us at Virgin Active for a free trial at one of ten our clubs in Sydney or Melbourne. Better yet, maximise your outdoor activity with this complimentary outdoor beach workout routine from Virgin Active Personal Trainer, John Wakerman - the team at Virgin Active has you in mind at every step of your fitness journey.

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