As parents, one of our strongest instincts is protect our children's health. We want to see them grow up to be strong in mind and in body, and to enjoy the many riches that a healthy life has to offer. We know how important feeling good is to experiencing a successful life. This blog article explores what a little sunshine can do for not only our children, but for all of us.
One of Nature's easiest health therapies to enjoy, and one that also helps guard against disease, is direct sunlight. That’s right! It’s free and it’s right out the back door. All we have to do is go out and get it. Sunlight causes our bodies to generate Vitamin D and there is a proven link between Vitamin D deficiency and both mental and physical disease.
How It Works
The sun provides humans with critical Vitamin D, which we absorb through our skin. The peak sun intensity hours, when UV light is strongest, are between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. standard time or 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time. The sun should be avoided then, or sunscreen should be worn. However, there are times that are "safe" for us to expose ourselves to those beautiful rays. The best times to get outside and soak up the Sun’s safe rays without sunscreen and with as much skin exposure as possible is in the early morning and late afternoon before 10 am/11 am and after 3pm/4pm. Anywhere from 10-20 minutes is good. Experts say to stay out about half the time it would take to burn.
What does Vitamin D do for us? For starters, it retains calcium in the bones and is essential for bone maturation and strengthening. D also powers up the immune system, helping children (and adults) stay happy and healthy. It increases production of some protective substances in the respiratory system, thus creating protective effects against lung and respiratory tract infections. Additionally, D is involved in the production of certain hormones; it helps regulate adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin levels in the brain. This is a very important vitamin indeed!
Vitamin D deficiency is thought to play a role in both the development and metastasis of certain types of disease tumors. Research conducted by Imtiaz, et. al, indicates:
In the cancer research field, vitamin D has emerged as the most prolific topic in the last decade with work connecting it with risk reduction in various epithelial cancers. Aside from calcium homeostasis, vitamin D exerts a wide range of immunogenic and antiproliferative activities in the body. Of particular interest to the oncologists is the reduced incidence of breast, colon, and prostate cancers with higher sun exposure, higher intake, or higher serum levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is also thought to play a role in mental health. Many studies and much research has been conducted on its impact on mental wellbeing. For the sake of brevity, I won’t include quotes from research here about the findings, since you can easily find material on the internet that supports Vitamin D’s use for depression. If you or your child are suffering from depression, ask your doctor about tests that can check Vitamin D levels.
The sun’s UVB rays, when directly beaming upon our bare skin, causes Vitamin D production to occur. One of the best ways to increase the amount of Vitamin D you or your child produce is to not wear sunscreen during the safe hours.
Excessive sunbathing can contribute to development of skin cancer. Only sun yourself in the “safe” hours. Also keep in mind that the excessive intake of any nutrient, including vitamin D, can have negative effects. Too much supplemental Vitamin D can be harmful because it increases calcium levels, which can lead to the deposit of calcium salts in soft tissues, such as the kidneys, heart, and/or lungs, and high blood levels of calcium.
If you want your child to get outside more, join us at Art, Movement & Life Skills Academy in League City, Texas. Our classes include at least 30 minutes of outside time daily (during the "safe" hours) and provides children with an opportunity to get Vitamin D, exercise, and fresh air!
Dr. Lola Scarborough (Ph.D)
Director of Physical Education
& Co-Director Critical Skills Development
Art, Movement, & Life Skills Academy
League City, Texas