To slather or not to slather, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to choose SPF 15 or 50?

As a true redhead with requisite freckles, I have endured a love hate relationship with the sun for a long time. I love almost anything that requires being outside…years of sailing and windsurfing, followed by years of walking marathons. I hate getting burned.

So, I dutifully slather on the sunblock well before I hit the pavement for my walks. Recently, I’ve been reading that all that sunblock may be reducing the ability of my body to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical to the formation of strong bones by promoting calcium absorption. Wouldn’t it be ironic that all the bone density building that happens when we’re out power walking is for naught because we’re not getting appropriate levels of vitamin D?

What’s a dedicated power walker to do?

According to various reliable sources, exposing about 15 percent of your body to just 10 minutes in the sun on most days of the week in summer, 15–20 minutes in spring and autumn, or 30 minutes in winter, outside peak UV times will usually give us enough vitamin D. If a power walk is going to be longer than these times or if we are walking in peak sun times at high UV Index levels we should be putting on the sunblock. And it should be a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

For me, during early morning walks from 7 to 9:30am I feel safe without my sun protection. Any time after that, I’ll be laying it on. Research aside, my unscientific analysis has revealed that my freckles experience a population explosion any time after the early morning sun.

Let me know if you have any other good sun strategies or tips.