The Vitamin That Helps Dancers Perform Better and Get Injured Less Often
File this under news that sounds too good to be true: A study published in last month's International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that one little nutrient—vitamin D—could improve dancers' strength and decrease their risk of injury.
Known as "the sunshine vitamin" because of our body's ability to produce it when exposed to sun, vitamin D has long been a sore point for dancers. Many have chronically low levels, most likely because of their restrictive diets and all the time they spend indoors in studios and theaters.
That's a serious risk: Our bodies need this vitamin to absorb calcium and keep our bones strong. Other studies have shown that a lack of D also correlates with a lack of muscle strength.
So recently, a team of researchers in the UK studied 67 elite adolescent dancers over a four-month period, giving some 120,000 international units of vitamin D supplements every week and giving others a placebo. The dancers took a series of muscle function tests before and after the study, and an independent health team at their school recorded their injuries.
Dancers showed a statistically significant increase in muscle strength after supplementing with vitamin D for four months.
The results? Those who took the supplement showed a 7.8 percent increase in isometric muscle strength. And there was a significant difference in the traumatic injury rates, too: Only 10.9 percent of the supplementers got injured while 31.8 percent of those in the control group did.
If that's not enough to start upping your dosage of D, we don't know what is. But before hopping yourself up on supplements, ask your doctor to test you for a deficiency.
Although experts say a few minutes of midday sun can be the easiest way to get your fill, if skin cancer is a concern or if you live in a northern city (where the sun isn't as strong), Dance/USA's Taskforce on Dancer Health suggests focusing on foods high in vitamin D—like fatty fish, egg yolks, vitamin D–fortified dairy and cereal products—and taking a supplement.