3 April, 2023

Are you ready for Spring? There are plenty of benefits to walking more during the day. Spending time outdoors can help to clear your head and boost your mood, helping you to feel more productive and focused. But did you know that walking in the spring sun can help top up your vitamin D levels too?

Most studies have found that low vitamin D levels are linked to an increased breast cancer risk. The body produces adequate vitamin D levels if the skin is exposed to sufficient sunlight (other sources include diet or supplements).

Getting outside can easily be incorporated into your daily routines. Walking to work, walking the children to school, walking to your local shop. It’s hard changing your routine, especially during a working week when you have a lot going on. But getting out for a walk, even a short 15-minute stroll, can boost your vitamin D!

What is a healthy vitamin D level?

Your vitamin D level depends on many factors, including how much time you spend outdoors, what you eat, your age, and your skin type. For most people in the northern hemisphere, adequate vitamin D levels are produced from daily sun exposure to bare skin from late March-September. Fair-skinned individuals typically need to spend 10-15 minutes in the sun. For people with darker skin tones, 25-40 minutes is recommended.  

Vitamin D’s ability to be stored in fat cells helps maintain adequate levels in winter. But a diet containing vitamin D-rich foods can also help to maintain these levels. Supplements can also be taken. 

How can I increase my vitamin D intake?

Recent findings from ADP® Research Institute’s People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View say nearly half of the UK workforce (45%) say their work is suffering due to poor mental health. Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our well-being (along with reducing your risk of breast cancer). Even a short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy, positive mood and vitamin D intake! 

WHO and Government guidelines suggest adults should aim to do 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. So, getting out for a 20-minute walk daily can see you quickly reach that recommended amount of exercise. And top up your vitamin D levels! And with physical activity also thought to reduce your risk of breast cancer by around 20%, what better way to start a routine than by a daily walk? 

Our Communications Officer, Grace, recently made her New Year’s resolution to do a daily walk (even if brisk). She explains: 

“A daily walk really does set your mood for the afternoon. My head feels clear and ready to tackle the rest of the day. Weekdays can feel overwhelming sometimes, so getting out for a walk can, importantly, allows you to think about other things besides work.

“Since working at BCUK, I’ve been trying to make small changes – reducing my exposure to harmful chemicals, eating a better diet, getting more physically active – but the good thing is if I do a daily walk, I get two benefits. Vitamin D exposure and daily exercise.

“My day now feels strange if lunchtime passes and I haven’t managed to get out of the house for my daily dose of vitamin D and a walk – I’ve turned a chore into a healthy habit.”

What exactly is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins the human body can produce. It is also present in certain foods (salmon, egg yolks and certain mushrooms). And can be taken as a dietary supplement. In the body, vitamin D production is stimulated by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays interacting with the skin.  

The body needs Vitamin D to help maintain sufficient calcium levels for healthy, strong bones and bone growth and reduce inflammation. It has also been investigated for its potential role in reducing the risk of many diseases, including breast cancer. 

What is vitamin D’s link to breast cancer?

Several studies have demonstrated a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D may protect against breast cancer development through its control of normal breast cell growth, anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce serum oestrogen levels. 

Despite the link between low vitamin D levels and breast cancer development, most studies demonstrate that taking supplements does not reduce your risk of breast cancer. But more research is needed.  

For more information on vitamin D, check out our key facts sheet and science brief.

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today. 

You can help make a difference. Help fund our research – you can help prevent breast cancer for future generations. Donate today 

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