Many people understand the dangers of the sun, and how too much exposure damages the skin and can cause various forms of skin cancer. However, science shows that sunshine can also offer physical benefits, and that vitamin D deficiency poses a problem in today’s sunscreened, anti-ultraviolet ray society.

While many other important vitamins take center stage, sometimes this one gets swept aside. According to Healthline“Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin that has powerful effects on several systems throughout your body. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions like a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it.”

Major benefits of vitamin D:

Good bone health and strength, as one of vitamin D’s main functions is to help the body absorb calcium and block the release of the parathyroid hormone, which makes bones thinner and more brittle.

Vitamin D can help fight off sickness, such as the flu, and can even lower one’s risk of heart disease.

Just as the sight of sun through a window can brighten one’s mood, studies have shown that vitamin D from the actual rays can help lessen depression symptoms

Vitamin D has even been found to assist with weight loss, as taking a calcium supplement along with a vitamin D supplement can decrease appetite.

When taken in daily supplements, Vitamin D can also reduce the risk of falls for seniors.

Elderly woman is smiling in the sunshine and sniffing a yellow flower

Vitamin D deficiency can have serious negative consequences. Symptoms may include:

Fatigue

Frequent sickness

Back pain, muscle pain

Muscle weakness

Depression

Hair loss

Additionally, adults over the age of 65 are at a greatly increased risk for vitamin D deficiency, and according to WebMD, this can even lead to cognitive impairment in seniors.

The National Institutes of Health writes that vitamin D “is produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis,” but if stepping out into the sunshine isn’t a safe or realistic option for yourself or the seniors in your life, consider asking your physician about a vitamin D supplement or a potential change in diet, such as increasing your consumption of fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, swordfish, and mackerel) and fortified dairy products.