People aren’t getting enough vitamin D, and it’s a big problem.

Growing up, we were told to drink our milk for bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D.  However doctors and dietitians are finding that in today’s sedentary, plugged-in-to-technology society, dietary vitamin D is not enough to keep Americans healthy. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), roughly 33 percent of children and adults are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. That’s one out of every three Americans who are running low on this very important vitamin.

How vitamin D does a body good

Vitamin D does a lot more than just provide strong bones by aiding your body’s absorption of calcium. Vitamin D also supports normal immune system function, and studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease.

While research hasn’t definitively proven that vitamin D deficiency is the cause of certain diseases, there is strong evidence to support a correlation between vitamin D levels and diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular health, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, dementia, multiple sclerosis and even cancer.

Why vitamin D from food isn’t enough

How much vitamin D you need can vary from person to person. But the United States Endocrine Society recommends the following daily vitamin D goals:

  • children less than 1 year 400-1000 International Units (IUs) daily
  • children 1 year and older 600-1000 IUs daily
  • adults 1500-2000 IUs daily

For people who are overweight or for the 35 percent of Americans who are classified as obese, their bodies can require an additional two to three times more vitamin D than non-obese people.

A single 8-ounce glass of milk or fortified orange juice contains roughly 100 IUs of vitamin D. So to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from these traditional sources, you’d have to forgo the recommended 8 glasses of water a day for milk. Hardly a healthy alternative!

How playing and enjoying time outside can improve your health

While food alone isn’t a sufficient source of vitamin D, there is good news. The best way to increase your vitamin D levels is as easy as taking a stroll outside. Vitamin D has been called the “sunshine vitamin,” because your body can produce its own supply of vitamin D with a little help from the sun.

Cholesterol on the skin is converted by sunlight into various forms of vitamin D by your liver and kidneys. A fair-skinned person with full body exposure to the sun can synthesize up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D in just 20 minutes.

For children, encouraging daily outside play time can help them achieve healthy vitamin D levels. Just a few minutes a day on their Rainbow Play System or Springfree Trampoline can mean better overall health now and in the long run.

For adults, getting out a playing alongside your children has numerous benefits, including increased vitamin D levels. But even adults without children should seek out a little extra sunshine for better overall health.