Vitamin D & Exercise
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins required by the body to function properly and for optimum and long lasting health.
The benefit of fat-soluble vitamins is that they can be consumed in smaller quantities than the water-soluble vitamins because they have greater long-term storage capacity in the body. There are a few forms of Vitamin D, including Ergocalciferol (D2) and Cholecalciferol (D3). There is much debate about which is the most potent and important form to humans. Recently, data has shown that D3-Cholecalciferol is the most beneficial and has the highest bio-efficacy in the body.1
Why is Vitamin D important?
- Vitamin D plays many vital roles in the human body and is important for good overall health.
- It supports the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system.
- By supporting immunity, Vitamin D provides protective action against colds and flu.2
- Vitamin D is specifically required for regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism which makes it vital for musculoskeletal health, to keep bones, muscles and teeth healthy. It works by increasing calcium absorption into the body by increasing the number of absorption channels. This increases the residing Calcium within the body which is a vital structural component of teeth and bones.3
- Vitamin D helps regulate insulin levels, helping with the management of diabetes.4
- It helps promote healthy lung function and supports cardiovascular health.
- Studies have linked low levels of vitamin D with mood disorders, seasonal affective disorders. Research carried out between 2011 and 2013 by Anglin et al confirmed that low levels of the active form of vitamin D is associated with depressive conditions while administration of supplements was associated with improvements.5
- Vitamin D has been shown to be beneficial to those who have Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia.6
- Acts as an anti-inflammatory and improves inflammatory response.7
- Studies have shown a strong link between Vitamin D and the effective management of asthma due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has indicated that taking a Vitamin D supplement could help reduce the risk of having severe asthma attacks by reducing inflammation in the airways, thereby helping to reduce the narrowing of the airways.8
- Offers protection against diseases and conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. 9
- Vitamin D has been proven to aid cell division.10
Sources of Vitamin D
Sunlight; (UVB) radiation.
While vitamin D can also be obtained from some natural food sources, it can be difficult to get adequate levels from food alone. Food sources include: Egg yolks; Liver; Red meat; Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna) and Fortified foods eg margarine spreads and breakfast cereals.
Vitamin D, colloquially called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is essential for optimum health but perhaps one of the more elusive vitamins to naturally obtain if you happen to live in the UK and mostly experience the good old British weather. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to sunlight containing enough ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. We, as a nation, seem to love ourselves some sunshine but chances are if we left our vitamin D levels to the sun alone, we would probably find ourselves lacking in this vital vitamin. Factors such as season, time of day, clothing, cloud cover, latitude, altitude, air pollution, and use of sunscreen all affect just how much exposure to UVB radiation our skin actually gets.
Not only do we rarely get enough sunlight throughout the year to provide adequate levels of Vitamin D, many of us won’t be spending enough time outside to enable us to obtain enough Vitamin D from the sun if it is shining.
Recommended Daily Amount of Vitamin D
Indeed, back in the summer of 2016 new government guidelines were issued from Public Health England (PHE), which advised adults and children over the age of one should have 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D daily. It’s also advised that babies from birth up to 1 year require 8.5 to micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day. However, babies who consume more than 500ml of infant formula a day don't need a vitamin D supplement because formula milk is already fortified. The advice is based on a report conducted by the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) after a review of the evidence on vitamin D and health.11
It’s largely recommended that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement to ensure that the UK population has satisfactory vitamin D levels throughout the year.12
It’s thought that about one in five people in the UK have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Although this doesn’t equate to one in five people in the UK having an actual vitamin D deficiency, it’s clear Vitamin D levels are hard to maintain, especially in the UK; where the body is unable to synthesise vitamin D from sunlight from October to March - hence the advice that a supplement should be considered.13
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency aren’t usually experienced but if symptoms are experienced they may include:
- Bone pain
- Weak muscles
- Foggy, unclear thinking
- Frequent bone fractures
A deficiency in Vitamin D is usually associated with rickets in children and bone pain technically due to osteomalacia in the elderly.
Vitamin D supplement
The surefire way to get enough vitamin D in our bodies is to take a Vitamin D supplement. We provide the tablet in two strengths 1000iu (25mcg) and 5000iu (125mcg). Both of these tablets come in an easy to swallow 6mm tablet and a range of 4 different packet sizes.
Try taking your daily supplement with an avocado, which is ripe with “good fats,” and can help the body to take in the Vitamin D. Studies have indicated that eating one avocado can help the body to absorb twice as much Vitamin D.14
Vitamin D, Exercise and Heart Health
Although Vitamin D serves a multitude of important physiological functions in the body, its key role has long been associated with musculoskeletal health. Recent research, however, has focused primarily on how Vitamin D is also essential for heart health, and particularly effective when coupled with exercise. Evidence based on survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults taken over a 20 year period indicates a strong synergistic connection between Vitamin D and Exercise and a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes.15 Vitamin D has been known for its benefits on cardiovascular health, but this new research highlights a very special relationship between Vitamin D and exercise and how together they can be more effective at looking after our heart than alone. This new evidence was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, April 1 2017 issue and most importantly demonstrated “a positive and direct relationship between exercise and vitamin D levels in the blood, which may provide evidence that exercise may boost vitamin D stores”.16 Findings from the study showed a clear correlation between lack of exercise and insufficient levels of Vitamin D and that this was a common factor. The upshot of the findings is that people are not getting outside into the fresh air enough and thereby not getting enough UVB rays from sunlight but that people are also not exercising enough, and that these two factors together severely influence levels of Vitamin D in the human body, ultimately having an effect on heart health. The study clearly indicates a synergistic relationship between exercise and Vitamin D; by working together, the combined health effects on the heart of Vitamin D and exercise are greater.
Average recommended exercise
To maintain good health, especially heart health; a healthy body weight; and it would seem adequate levels of Vitamin D; we need to eat the right foods and we need to exercise and keep our bodies active as well.
We all know we need to be exercising regularly but how much is enough exercise? Too little exercise can lead to weight and other health issues. Too much exercise can also be harmful.
The recommended amount of exercise for the average adult is 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, consisting of a mixture of aerobic and strength exercises. This equates to 30 minutes of exercise over 5 days of the week. It’s worth noting that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.17 Try doing the majority of this exercise outside and your all round health will benefit as well as increasing your chances of soaking up some of that vital sunshine vitamin.
So coupling enough exercise with as much sunlight as we can get on our skin; eating Vitamin D rich foods and supporting this with a Vitamin D supplement (because it’s hard to get the right amount of vitamin D our body needs from food alone; and the sun doesn’t always shine on the righteous) could together be a fantastic way of ensuring we have adequate levels of Vitamin D. Furthermore, findings from this recent study show that exercise can actually increase Vitamin D levels in the blood. So the more we exercise, the higher our Vitamin D levels will be.18 This could be the start of a beautiful relationship between Vitamin D and exercise which, when combined, could actually help to improve the health of the heart as well as our health and well-being generally.
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2 Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(7):1911-1930.
4 Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(7):1911-1930.
11 SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf
15 Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2017:www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427091736.htm
16 Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2017:www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427091736.htm
18 Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Exercise and vitamin D better together for heart health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2017:www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427091736.htm