Are There Benefits to Spending Time Outdoors?

Photo of a senior couple gardening

While enjoying the benefits of being outdoors, people can decrease skin cancer risk by using sun protection.

Spending time outdoors can improve overall health and wellness. The outdoors offers many opportunities to be physically active. Time outdoors may also promote mental health and stress reduction. While enjoying the benefits of being outdoors, people can decrease skin cancer risk from too much UV exposure by using sun protection. Protect yourself by staying in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying and re-applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Communities can help by ensuring shade is available in public parks. Schools and businesses may consider adding shade to school grounds and places were people gather outside.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can stimulate production of vitamin D in the skin. Having little or no sun exposure may put a person at risk for low levels of vitamin D, but too much UV exposure from the sun or artificial sources can increase risk of skin cancers and eye disease. The amount of vitamin D a person’s skin makes when they are in the sun depends on many factors, including skin tone, geographic location, weather conditions, time of year, and time of day.

You can also get vitamin D through your diet. Food sources of vitamin D include some types of fish; foods with added vitamin D, such as some cereals; juices; dairy products; and egg yolks.

The skin can produce only a limited amount of vitamin D at one time. Once the body has reached this limit, spending more time in the sun will not continue to increase vitamin D levels. However, continued time in the sun will increase your skin cancer risk. There is no known level of UV exposure that would increase vitamin D levels without also increasing skin cancer risk. Vitamin D can be obtained safely through food and dietary supplements without the risks associated with overexposure to UV.

Additional resources about physical activity—

Additional resources about vitamin D—