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Sunday School: Being Outside Is More Than Just Child’s Play

playing outside

How many of us have said or thought, “we played outside so much more when we were kids than kids now days do.”  We reminisce of the good ol’ days when we used to play outside for hours with the neighborhood children and finally come in only when our parent’s called us in for dinner or because it was getting too dark to see.

There are many reasons children may not play outside as much these days, including unsafe neighborhoods, overbooked schedules {not home}, and technology.  There is also a big push to get kids outside more often, the number one reason is childhood obesity.

But, there may be more to playing outside than we realized.  Being outdoors is fantastic exercise and in turn, could lower rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.  But, exercise isn’t the only thing children AND adults get from being outdoors.  You also get sunshine which in health terms translates to vitamin D.

Why is Vitamin D important?

“Research conducted over the past decade suggests that vitamin D plays a much broader disease-fighting role than once thought.

Being “D-ficient” may increase the risk of a host of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, some cancers, and multiple sclerosis, as well as infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and even the seasonal flu.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “Vitamin D and Health.”

According to a study cited by Dr. Mercola, “Optimizing your vitamin D levels could help you to prevent at least 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers. Overall, optimal vitamin D levels can cut cancer risk by as much as 60 percent, according to one large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled study.”

How do I know if I have enough Vitamin D?

Here are the guidelines for a healthy person:

Age                                  Ideal  Range**                                  Normal Daily Dose

 Birth to 6 months          >40ng/mL^                                           400IU/day

6 months to 5year         >50ng/mL^                             1,000*IU per each 20lbs/day

5 year to 12 year           >60ng/mL                                       3-4000 IU/day

12 year to adult             >60ng/mL                                          5000 IU/day

Pregnant                       >60nm/mL                                         6,000 IU/day

Dark skinned adults      >60ng/mL                                          5-6,000 IU/day

It’s important to get your vitamin D levels tested to ensure you’re within the optimal range.  You can request that your blood be tested at your next check up and Dr. Mercola suggested the D*Action Project for another way to get affordable testing done twice a year.

How can I increase my Vitamin D intake?

Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make.  Few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, egg yolks, and beef liver happen to be some of the only foods NATURALLY high in vitamin D.  It is actually impossible to get the vitamin D your body needs just from food.  There are other foods that are “fortified” with vitamin D, but its debatable as to whether or not we can even metabolize these synthetic versions on vitamin D.

The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D level is through sun exposure.  As a very general guide, you need to expose about 40 percent of your entire body for approximately 20 minutes to the sun, between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is at its zenith.  To protect the skin around your eyes and face that are more prone to premature aging and burning, it is recommended that you wear a hat.  I have a classy, blue southern belle floppy hat I like to wear and my children also have floppy hats.

playing outside with hat

But Doesn’t the Sun CAUSE Cancer??

Despite the push for more awareness about sun exposure, and the advice to use sunscreen whenever we go outside, incidence of skin cancer, especially melanoma, is rising dramatically.

In fact, skin cancer rates are rising by 4.2% annually, despite the fact that we  spend less time outdoors and wear more sunscreen. {Quote from Wellness Mama’s post, “Eat Your Sunscreen?”}

Research has shown that sunscreen helps prevent squamous cell carcinoma, but has no effect in preventing basal cell carcinoma. For melanoma, research has been contradictory. Some research shows that sunscreen prevents melanoma, while other research shows that it increases your chance of getting melanoma.  And, unfortunately, correctly applied sunscreen reduces our ability to absorb vitamin D by more than 90 percent.

For these reasons, the Vitamin D Council believes that covering up with clothing and/or going into the shade (after you get a little bit of sun exposure), is a safer way to protect yourself from too much sun exposure.

And, it is important to remember that we aren’t talking about staying out in the sun for long lengths of time – 15 to 20 minutes is plenty for a fair skinned person like me.  The goal is to get some sun to produce efficient vitamin D, not to get a tan.  In fact, you should go in even before your skin is pink.

There are other ways to get your vitamin D:

You can also get vitamin D by taking supplements. This is a good way to get vitamin D if you can’t get enough sunlight, or if you’re worried about exposing your skin. Vitamin D3 is the best kind of supplement to take. It comes in a number of different forms, such as tablets and capsules, but it doesn’t matter what form you take, or what time of the day you take it.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means your body has a hard time getting rid of it if you take too much. The Vitamin D Council recommends taking no more than the upper limit, meaning do not take anymore than 10,000 IU/day for adults.

water play wearing protective clothingctive

How I Protect My Skin While Getting My Daily Dose of Vitamin D

I try to go outside a little bit each day whether it be for tending my garden {watering, picking, weeding, etc}, pushing my kids on the swing set, swimming in my parents’ pool, or walking around outside at the farmer’s market.  Since I don’t stay out for long lengths of time, I don’t use sunscreen on myself or my kids.

We do wear hats to protect our heads and delicate skin from burning and I buy swim suits with rash guard shirts for my fair skinned kiddos.  I was able to purchase protective wear for all the members of my family at Walmart.  Many of the hats and rash guard shirts that Walmart has available are under $10.  In fact, I picked Judah up a couple for only $7 each.

If we are going to spend more time outside, we opt to go in the later hours of the day when the suns rays aren’t as strong.  For example, when my family visits the beach, we are the weirdos that show up just as everyone else is leaving, at around 6 pm in the evening during the summer and stay until almost 8 to watch the sun set.  It’s much cooler and we’ve yet to leave the beach with a sun burn, even without sunscreen.

During the winter, it is more difficult for us to get the sun we need, so we will be taking a vitamin D3 supplement.  I am not a proponent for taking vitamins, I believe in getting the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we eat and I take great care in making sure we eat REAL, traditional foods that can deliver them.  However, vitamin D3 is the exception to this rule and I can see the benefits in taking a supplement.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor; just a mom whose done a bit of research, striving towards better health for myself and my family and happy to pass on what I am learning.  No information here is intended to treat or cure any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please consult your doctor if you are pregnant/nursing.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I’m a participant in the Walmart Moms Program. Walmart has provided me with a product sample and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. Participation in this program is voluntary and the opinions stated above are entirely my own.

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