I thought I was getting about as much sunshine as the average woman in her 40s. I don’t play sport, and I don’t tend to spend my days sunbathing in a bikini. But I do drop off and pick up my kids from school, and spend a bit of time hanging out with them in the backyard.
I assumed I was spending enough time in the sun to keep my vitamin D levels up. But last year, when my GP suggested I get my levels tested, I agreed. I was surprised to find I was a bit low.
Vitamin D is necessary for our bodies to be able to absorb calcium. It helps keep bones and teeth strong, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It also helps build muscle strength, and can boost immunity. It’s important for everyone to get enough vitamin D, but for women in our age group, it’s something we really need to keep in mind.
Vitamin D is found naturally in a few foods, including oily fish and eggs. As well, some foods are fortified with the vitamin. But most people only get a small amount from their diet.
The best natural source is the sun. Vitamin D is formed when skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation. But the amount of sunshine you should be getting to keep your levels up depends on a lot of different factors. So if you’re a fair-skinned Townsville woman, you’re not going to need much more than five minutes a day in the summer. But if you have darker skin, or live somewhere like Melbourne, you’re going to need more time – a lot more in the winter months.