When your skin is exposed to the sun, it creates vitamin D from cholesterol. Unfortunately, many people believe that exposure to sunlight is harmful to their health since it can lead to wrinkles, premature aging, and even skin cancer.
However, some evidence shows that, in moderation, sunshine exposure may be helpful as it is an excellent source of vitamin D, which helps build and maintain strong muscles. For this reason, making sure you get plenty of sun each day is critical to maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D.
This article explains how long we should be spending in the sun.
How much time should we spend in the sun?
After carefully considering the benefits and side effects of sun exposure, it is only normal to inquire how much exposure is enough to ensure you get sufficient vitamin D while avoiding skin damage.
Researchers believe that 10 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure is enough in the spring and summer months. However, during winter, a person might need to spend a minimum of 2 hours in the sun to obtain the same quantity of Vitamin D.
This is because we tend to be more clothed during winter, leaving only about 10% of our bodies exposed to sunlight, unlike the summer months, where about 25% of our bodies are exposed. As such, we should seek other sources of vitamin D such as vitamin D supplements or cod liver oil to avoid deficiency.
Conditions that influence vitamin D absorption
As stated earlier, under normal conditions, 10 to 15 minutes of sun on the arms and legs a few times a week should be enough to produce sufficient vitamin D.
Unfortunately, the perfect conditions are elusive because the time of the day, the season, distance from the equator, cloud cover, and even pollution all influence the quantity of UVB that reaches your skin. Furthermore, age and skin color also affect the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.
For instance, people in their 60s produce only one-fourth as much as those in their 20s, and people with more melanin (darker skin color) have roughly half as much vitamin D in their blood compared to Caucasians.
The ideal time to sunbathe
The ideal time to bathe in the sun for maximum vitamin D absorption is midday, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m, especially in the summer months. Studies show that the sun is at its peak during this time, and the UVB rays are most powerful, meaning you need to spend less time in the sun to produce enough vitamin D.
Receiving vitamin D around noon is not only more effective, but it may also be safer than getting sun later in the day. According to one research, spending time in the sun in the afternoon can increase the risk of developing severe skin cancers.
The bottom line
A lack of sun exposure would be less of an issue if our regular diet supplied enough vitamin D. So while there are some vitamin-D rich foods, there aren’t many of them, and you’d have to consume a lot of them to obtain 800 to 1,000 IU per day.
Therefore, you should aim for 10-30 minutes (or longer for people with darker complexion) of midday sunshine at least three times a week to maintain appropriate levels. However, during winter or if you reside in a region far from the equator, as such have weaker UV rays, you should consider taking vitamin D supplements or consuming extra vitamin D-rich foods.