October 13, 2017 By Elizabeth McCammon

Exercise is good for you. Vitamin D is good for you. Now research suggests that combining the two—say, being active outdoors where you are exposed to vitamin D-producing sunlight—may be even better.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland looked at 19 years’ worth of health information for more than 10,000 people, with and without diabetes. They rated people’s physical activity levels as adequate, intermediate, or poor based on how closely they met the American Heart Institute’s recommendations of more than 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week or more of vigorous-intensity exercise. They also looked at blood tests to determine vitamin D levels.

The study found that the most active people with the highest vitamin D levels had the lowest risk for having a stroke or heart attack over the 19 years. Active people with a low vitamin D intake did not have the same reduced risk of heart attack or stroke as active people with higher vitamin D levels. Researchers concluded that the combined benefit of vitamin D and exercise was stronger than either factor alone.

The researchers do caution that other factors may also be involved. For example, people who exercise may have other healthy habits that influence vitamin D levels, such as lower body fat and a healthier diet.

These findings, which were published in the April 2017 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, are valuable for people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, who are at higher risk for developing heart disease. Regular physical activity and vitamin D play an important role in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. So, in addition to being active, be sure you are getting enough vitamin D: Dietitians of Canada recommends at least 600 IU for most healthy adults.

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