Well, you can tell the season has definitely changed. Perhaps it has been a little more difficult to go for that walk or get stuck into the garden. However, winter time is the most important time to get out and keep moving to get enough vitamin D and keep our bones and muscles strong.
Vitamin D is not only a vitamin but a hormone as well, with its main role in building strong bones and maintaining muscles particularly important as we age. Vitamin D works with calcium to our keep bones strong so an inadequate amount of either vitamin D or calcium can result in reduced bone density which can then reduce strength and increase our risk of falls.
Winter time is well known to increase the rate of vitamin D deficiency due to spending more time indoors and covering up. Vitamin D is made in our skin from the sun’s direct UV rays. Unfortunately, the skin can not make vitamin D with UV rays through glass windows so you have to get out side. In winter, on the Central Coast, we need around 30 minutes of sun exposure every day with most of our arms and legs exposed. We may need more if we are covered up, are older, have darker skin or are carrying a few extra kilos.
The best times are before or after the harsh Australian midday sun of 11-2pm but if you find you get burnt that means the skin is not able to make the Vitamin D and it is best to get back inside or cover up.
Most of our vitamin D will come from the sun as there is not enough in the foods we eat to meet our nutrition needs.
Foods that do contain some vitamin D include fatty fish (mackerel and herring), liver, eggs, some margarines, other dairy or soy drinks which have been fortified as well as mushrooms that have been exposed to direct sunlight.
If you are unsure that you are getting enough Vitamin D simply ask your GP for a blood test to check your levels and they may advise on supplementation if needed.
For optimal health getting out side to do some form of physical activity will benefit you in many, many ways. Giving your muscles and heart, a bit of a workout will warm you up during and after the activity by increasing your metabolism. It may even help reduce your heating bills.
Doing different types of physical activity over the week can give you various benefits such as muscle strength, bone strength, joint flexibility, balance and co-ordination and reducing aches and pains. Physical activity is well known to increase our mood whether it is by the release of endorphins, being social, getting that feeling of accomplishment or developing that mind-body-nature connection.
As we age it can be more difficult and even unsafe to do certain exercises particularly if you have certain conditions such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or have had any injury. So, it is best to stay on the safe side and discuss your exercise intensions with your GP. Also ask to get some professional advice from a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can prescribe you safe and effective exercises to suit your body’s ability and needs so you can then move on to doing more enjoyable activities like bush walking, cycling, dancing or gardening.