The sun is out in the United Kingdom. Well, it is out as I write. By the time you read this, the sun will probably be back in again and we might just as easily be in a hurricane as a heatwave. The effects of climate change can no longer be denied but we stalwart Brits have coped with erratic weather since the Druids cancelled the first summer solstice barbecue at Stonehenge. To grow up in the British Isles is to grow up painfully aware that if you go out in sandals in the morning, you may need snow boots by midday and vice versa. Thus, is it any wonder that at the first hint of a sun ray, while our southern European neighbours stay cool and chic in immaculate linen, us Brits strip all our clothes off?
And so we should. Studies in the UK suggest that as many as one in five of us is deficient in vitamin D. It’s a deficiency that’s implicated in all sorts of health issues, including muscular-skeletal problems such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment in older people. It’s also been linked to childhood asthma and various forms of cancer.
Vitamin D is found in many edible sources, including fish such as mackerel and salmon. It’s found in egg yolks, cheese and liver (none of which is much good for vegans though fortunately vitamin D is found in mushrooms and tofu too, and you can buy vitamin D-fortified soya and almond milk). But happily, vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because heading outside for a dose of sunshine is one of the best ways to get enough.
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The exact amount of time that dose should take is unclear, since the way bodies make vitamin D varies from person to person, due to a number of factors including age, weight and skin colour, but the NHS website suggests that the majority of us can make most of the vitamin D we need for the year from a short period of daily exposure to the sun between March and September, taken with forearms and hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen. It stands to reason that getting entirely naked from time to time should speed the whole process up right?
But where should you go to strip off this summer? If you’ve got a secluded back garden, then great. However, make sure it really is secluded. In 2017, the Surrey Police were moved to issue a warning in the wake of a neighbourhood dispute sparked by someone being naked in their own back yard. Surrey Police said: “If you want to wander around your garden naked and you’re overlooked by neighbours then you have to be careful – an Englishman’s home is not quite his castle and your garden is not exempt from the law.”
While it is not an offence to be naked in public, your nudity must not be intended to “harass, alarm or distress” others. The intention bit is the crucial point, so if your neighbours are the type of people to think that you stripped off with the deliberate intention of scaring their cat, then beware. Though I’m sure there would be thousands of people up and down the country willing to crowd-fund your defence in the case of a lawsuit.
Luckily, the UK has several official nudist beaches. The majority of them are on the south coast, as you might expect. The naturist section of the beach at Brighton is a particularly popular spot. Take flip-flops and an inflatable mattress for the pebbles. You’ll find a slightly softer situation at Knoll Beach in Dorset’s Studland Bay, which has almost a mile of fine white sand, protected by dunes. National Trust Wardens provide a discrete patrol to ensure that Knoll Beach remains safe for families. Nearby is the Studland Summer camp, a well-established naturist site, where all over-18s are obliged to strip off.
But nudity isn’t just for occasionally sun-blessed southerners. If Brighton is Britain’s busiest nudist beach, then Cleat’s Shore on the Isle of Arran is possible the quietest. Indeed, Bare Britain calls Cleat’s Shore “probably the least visited nudist beach in the known universe”. Requiring a ferry crossing from the mainland followed by quite a hike it’s unlikely to ever be crowded. You’re more likely to find yourself sunbathing next to a seal than a fellow naturist. And it’s beautiful. Though one commentator leaving a review of the beach on walkingclub.org.uk asked, “who in their right mind would entirely expose themselves to voracious Arran midges? Unless, of course, you’re well ’ard and go in winter. And then? Brrrrr.”
British Naturism, which celebrates its 55th birthday this year and boasts more than 8,500 members, has thought through such concerns as sudden changes in the weather. The blurb for the club’s naked boat trip from Edinburgh to see the Forth Bridges this June assured interested members that the boat was equipped with a heated salon. British Naturism also organises events throughout the year that aren’t weather dependent, such as naked bowling, naked theatre visits and naked swimming sessions at indoor pools. There’s still time to join the club’s 2019 Great British Skinny Dip, which is taking place in venues all over the United Kingdom from Wales to Watford this July and August.
A dose of vitamin D isn’t the only reason why it helps to strip off on a regular basis. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has mentally deducted a stone and a half for my clothes while standing on the scales, so it’s good to know that getting naked might actually help you lose weight in a real way. It’s well documented that sleeping well helps us to regulate our appetites. The more tired we are the more likely we are to reach for a sugar fix during the day. Saying “no” to pyjamas and sleeping naked helps you sleep better. It also lowers your body temperature, which may encourage the production of the hormones that help burn fat.
Ditching clothes for a while – particularly if those clothes are made of synthetic fabrics that could cause rashes – also leads to healthier skin. Spending more time naked has even been shown to help people become more comfortable and confident regarding the shape of their bodies. Being more comfortable with your body could in turn improve your sex life and help to increase intimacy with your beloved.
It might be a long time before naturism loses its “nudge nudge” connotations in the UK but I’m convinced that we need to try harder to shake off the sniggers to reap all the benefits above, particularly with regard to body image. As the artist Michelangelo, who celebrated the glory of the naked human body better than anyone in his work, once said: “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognise the fact that the foot is more noble then the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”