It’s a miserable 10 degrees outside and the office heater keeps us nice and cozy in the break room, but did you know that for those of us living on the Border, during winter we need at least 30-40 minutes of midday sun exposure to our hands and forearms so our bodies can top up their vitamin D stores for healthy bones and muscles. This June and July, Cancer Council NSW and Arthritis and Osteoporosis NSW are encouraging indoor workers to “Take Time for a Vitamin D Break”.
Low levels of vitamin D can lead to bone and muscle weakness, fatigue, depression and osteoporosis.
People who are at risk of low levels of vitamin D include; the elderly, babies, people with naturally darker skin, people who cover most of their body and heads for religious or cultural reasons, people with prolonged illness who stay indoors and people who work indoors and spend little time outside.
Vitamin D is important for strong, healthy bones and muscles. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation. Unfortunately, exposure to UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and in Australia we are among the highest rates of skin cancers in the world.
If you are able to get outside during the middle of the day, roll up your sleeves, put on a hat and if it’s not raining too heavily, go for a brisk walk around the block during your lunch break. It may seem too cold to worry about sun protection, but check the UV rating. The Cancer Council recommends using sun protection when UV levels are 3 and above. In some parts of NSW, the UV levels can remain high enough to damage your skin all year round, even on cold, cloudy days. You can’t see or feel when UV levels are high so, check UV levels before going outside, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
For some of us, our work commitments or demands may make it very difficult to go outside during a lunch break. There are other ways to get outside in the sun. Perhaps you could try sitting on a bench in the sun to make longer phone calls or answer emails. You could hold walking meetings outdoors or sit in a local park instead of sitting in a meeting room.
Getting enough vitamin D without increasing your risk of skin cancer is very important. Short burst of exposure to low levels of UV radiation have been shown to improve vitamin D levels without increasing your risk of developing sun damage as much as longer periods of exposure.
Visit cancercouncil.com.au/sunsmart for more information. If you have any concerns about skin cancer or vitamin D, speak to your doctor. You can also speak to a physiotherapist about ways you can increase your daily outdoor activity.