02.How much sun do you need?
You need some exposure to sunshine
Your body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, which helps strengthen your bones and muscles and may also help prevent diseases such as multiple sclerosis and certain cancers. Your diet will provide some vitamin D, mainly from fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), liver and some fortified foods like margarine, but most of your needs come from exposure to sunlight.
How much sun should you get?
Surprisingly little, according to a recent study by Australian universities. In summer in most Australian cities, you need as little as five to seven minutes a day (at mid-morning or mid-afternoon, outside the hottest part of the day). Even in southern areas like Melbourne and Hobart you only need eight or nine minutes at most. And that’s not on your whole body, either: just on your face, hands and arms is enough. (This assumes a moderately fair skin.)
Groups at risk of inadequate sun exposure
Most of us probably get more than enough sun, but some people are at risk of not getting enough. They include:
- Elderly or infirm people who live mostly indoors and can’t get outdoors much.
- Dark-skinned people: dark skin needs more sun to make vitamin D than fair skin.
- Women who wear veils and covering clothing as part of their culture or religion.
- People with skin cancer or conditions (such as lupus) where sun avoidance is necessary. They need to strike a careful balance between necessary and harmful time in the sun, and may need dietary supplements to keep up their vitamin D levels.