Why a little bit of daily sunshine is so important for maintaining bone health

COVID-19 has seen many of us have spend a lot more time than usual indoors, particularly for people who have health concerns that make social distancing a necessity. 

While this has helped keep us and our communities safe from coronavirus, one of the unintended consequences has been some people have developed a Vitamin D deficiency. 

Vitamin D helps our bodies maintain strong bones and muscles. Interestingly, unlike other vitamins, such as vitamin C, vitamin D functions like a hormone in our body and every cell has a receptor for it. Our bodies produce the vitamin from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight. 

The symptoms of low vitamin D are mostly mild, but over a longer term it can have an impact on bone strength. Other symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, getting more colds, hair loss, sore muscles, and even depression. 

During Australia's winters, health professionals suggest people try and get some sunlight in the middle of the day to keep their vitamin D levels up. Over the warmer months, it's recommended a few minutes of morning or afternoon sun to maintain vitamin D levels. For people with darker skin getting enough vitamin D in winter can be difficult and they may need supplements, because the melanin in their skin makes it harder to absorb. 

Of course, Australia's strong sun means that extended exposure can damage your skin. Sun protection should always be used for long periods outdoors, especially during the hottest parts of the day. 

Most people don't need more than an hour of daily sunlight exposure to maintain their vitamin D levels. But during the pandemic for those who have been staying home more than usual vitamin D deficiency may be something getting checked with their doctor. It's also something which can be remedied with supplements from your doctor. Daily exercise and trying to get outdoors each day will also help maintain those levels. 

With summer just around the corner try and work a morning cup of tea or perhaps a late afternoon walk into your daily routine to make sure you keep your vitamin D levels maintained!

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