The Importance of Sunshine: How vitamin D, even in the winter, is vital to our wellbeing.

If you’re anything like me, this time of year makes you want to stay inside and curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea to stay warm and out of the elements.  However, staying inside for prolonged periods of time, even if you’re active, can have negative effects on your health.  According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, people need exposure to sunlight everyday in order to stay healthy.

Sunlight provides us with vitamin D, an essential nutrient that increases the absorption of calcium in the blood, making our bones stronger.  If someone has a prolonged vitamin D deficiency, they could develop osteoporosis as their bones aren’t absorbing enough calcium and therefore beginning to wear away in certain areas.

Aside from maintaining bone strength, vitamin D also prevents infections such as influenza, bronchitis, tuberculosis and more.  It may also prevent some forms of cancer.

It’s no surprise then as to why influenza and bronchitis are more prevalent in the winter than they are in the spring or summer; because it’s cold, people are less likely to go outside in the sun, and less sun means less vitamin D.

Though winter in Pennsylvania is no tropical paradise, studies show that even 10 to 15 minutes of being outdoors everyday can have numerous health benefits related to vitamin D.  That’s about the length of a short walk around campus!

Aside from physical health benefits, getting outside also has mental health benefits.  Staying inside all day with artificial lighting can readjust your melatonin levels.  Melatonin is a hormone that works alongside light to affect our sleep cycle.  Indoor lights are much dimmer than sunlight and can be controlled so that they’re turned on or off at any hour of the day.  The dimness of the lights makes it harder for your body to distinguish between day and night, and if the lights are kept on well into the night, your melatonin levels will adjust to fit that schedule and routine instead of the natural sunrise and sunset.

So by increasing the time you spend outside, not only will your bones be stronger and your body be more prepared against illnesses, but you will be more likely to have a regularized melatonin schedule that can help you sleep better and more routinely, increasing your overall energy and mood as well as combating Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Now go and bundle up, sled, skate, take a walk and admire the beauty of the winter landscape with the knowledge that every minute spent outdoors this season is leading to a happier, healthier you!



  1. A great article. You are absolutely correct, and the anti-sun movement must stop! Here are more sun-exposure facts to add to your list:
    •Seventy-five percent of melanomas occurs on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
    •Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Sun exposure decreases heart disease.
    •Sun exposure improves mood.
    •Those who spend time in the sun have 1/50 the risk of Parkinson’s disease!
    •For each death caused by diseases associated with sun exposure, there are 328 deaths caused by diseases associated with sun deprivation.
    •Sun exposure increases production of BDNF, essential to nerves.
    •Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
    •In the U.S., vitamin D deficiency in children has increased by 83 times during a 14-year period. That is likely due to indoor living and sunscreen use. Information:, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun.

  2. Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂