We’re smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer. That means more time spent outdoors, both working and playing. It also means more chances to get sunburned, which can increase your risk for skin cancer down the road.
By now, you know the drill of using sunscreen when spending time outdoors. But if you’re exercising outdoors or participating in other sports activities under the hot summer sun, you will need to take special precautions to protect your skin.
Time your workouts to the sun.
The sun’s strongest and most damaging UV rays are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so it’s best to plan your workouts before or after these prime sun hours. In the U.S., the sun is strongest during these hours, especially during the summer months of May through August. Your risk of sunburn is greater if you live in a mountainous area or closer to the equator since UV rays are more intense in these areas. Plan your workouts to avoid direct sunlight during these prime UV hours, and also plan other outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, biking, and recreational sports around these times for best protection.
Slather on the sunscreen.
Always wear sunscreen when exercising outdoors or doing other activities outside. Even if it’s cloudy, you can still get sunburned. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30, and apply a shot glass-sized amount generously to all exposed skin, including the face, ears, neck, chest, arms, legs, and back. Look for products that are sweat- and water-resistant for the best staying power, and to prevent sunscreen from dripping into your eyes while sweating.
Always apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside for your workout so it has time to soak in and time to work to protect your skin. Some athletes prefer mineral-based sunscreens with zinc and titanium dioxide that go on thicker and are less likely to drip when working out. If you’ll be doing a longer workout or activity outside, always reapply sunscreen every two hours.
Wear sun-protective clothing.
Ultraviolet protection factor, UPF, is similar to the SPF in sunscreen, but it is built into special clothing. There are many companies that make UPF-protective workout clothing and other gear. You can find leggings, shirts, tank tops, jackets, swimsuits, and more that have UVA and UVB broad-spectrum sun protection built right into the fabric. Most pieces are also moisture-wicking fabrics as well.
The highest rating for UPF protection in clothing is UPF 50, which blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays. Just remember that UPF-protective clothing only protects the skin that’s covered by the fabric, so be sure to still use sunscreen on any exposed areas. In addition to clothing, be sure to also wear a hat and sunglasses when exercising outdoors.
When exercising or doing any activity outdoors in the summer, staying properly hydrated should be a top priority. When you sweat more when working out under the sun, your skin can become drier and thus more susceptible to sunburn. Staying hydrated will protect your skin as well as your body.