You get up in the morning before dawn, and get on the road to head to work. You arrive at work just as the sun starts to rise and head indoors. It just so happens that your building has only three windows, which you’ll occasionally pass by during the course of your 8-hour workday, but most of the light you see is artificial. Finally, you get off of work around early evening, and when you get back home, you sit around for a couple of hours since you’re pretty tired. Afterwards, you go outside and do a half-hour of yardwork before you’re totally beat, and you head in before it gets too dark.
This isn’t the case for us all (it is for me), but as you can probably infer from the story and picture above, we really don’t get a lot of sun on average…especially if you compare us to our grandparents. Perhaps everyone knows that the sun on our skin produces vitamin D in our bodies, but of course, if we’re not outside, we are not producing as much vitamin D. An article I came across on USNEWS.com (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/heart/articles/2008/06/23/time-in-the-sun-how-much-is-needed-for-vitamin-d) suggests that a fair-skinned person in a bathing suit (meaning there is a lot of skin exposed) should be outside for a few minutes, while a person with dark skin might need to be outside for six times that!
On that note, as an african-american, I often heard others say “I’m not staying outside because I don’t want to get blacker.” I even said that naively myself sometimes. It is sad from the standpoint of us embracing who we are, but additionally, we as african-americans need sun more perhaps than anyone. And if you read the article, you will see that sun exposure helps protect against various diseases, including heart disease and overactive immune system disorders (think Type 1 Diabetes, Lupus, etc.). It just so happens that african-americans are disproportionately affected by these diseases…think about that.
When thinking about what to write for this post, I looked outside the car and looked at the trees as my wife and I drove down the highway. Trees are a very real part of the environment. The sun plays a very critical part in photosynthesis and chlorophyll production, both of which help keep trees alive. But if you were able to transport one of those trees indoors with little to no light, these processes would be impaired and the tree would die…
And it just so happens that the sun shining on us helps us produce vitamin D (it also does other helpful things for the body, for the record). So shouldn’t a lack of sunlight hurt us too? Perhaps we don’t see our bodies as a part of the environment in similar fashion to the trees. I think we would be wise to change our lifestyles to accommodate much more sun. Some things we could do include:
- Consider changing workshifts to allow you to get outside before work
- Change your job (it is an option…extreme, yes, but an option)
- Take sun breaks (at various points in the day, take a break and walk outside)
- Do yard work or gardening regularly
- Have quiet time or social time outside
By the way, read the USNEWS article if you get a chance.