Q:  Mr. Pedometer, isn’t it dangerous to be exposed to the summer sun on daytime walks?

A: That depends:  As Consumer Reports on Health noted in their June edition,  “While getting too much [sun] damages the skin, letting some sun in may be good for you.”  Here’s why:

  • “Sun exposure’s best-known benefit is vitamin D synthesis, which occurs in the skin in response to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.” Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium, which helps keep bones strong.
  • “The research is ongoing, but so far studies show that UV exposure might
    1. Lower blood pressure (which helps to protect against heart attack and stroke)
    2. Curb appetite (which can reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and possibly certain autoimmune diseases)
    3. Extend longevity (by 6 months to two years, according to a study in Sweden that monitored 30,000 women for 20 years)

Some Good Advice on UV Rays

However, those same UV rays can cause sunburn, which is a major risk for skin cancer.  The key is limiting unprotected sun exposure (no sunscreen) to 10-12 minutes TOTAL per summer day.  In general, doctors recommend that we

  • Apply sunscreen to face and handssunscreen hat and sun glasses on a beach
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Limit exposure to arms and legs – and then only if you are NOT taking a medication (such as certain diuretics and antidepressants) that increase your risk of sunburn.

The East Bay Times includes a UV index on its weather page, indicating at what time of day the highest risk is for sun damage to the skin.  Usually, morning walks to avoid the highest risk time.