What You Need To Know About Exercise And The Sun

With the warm weather coming, we can finally break free of the doldrums of indoor exercise and hit the sidewalks, trails, and roads!  Exercising outside is great, especially if you dread indoor exercise, but some recent research lead by my colleague, Dr. Kristin Schneider shows that people who exercise may be at greater risk for skin cancer, because they spend more time outside than people who are sedentary.  Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the US and one of few cancers that is actually on the rise.  Melanoma is the deadly form of skin cancer and is the number 2 cancer affecting young women.  Melanoma is also prevalent in older men.  With a continuously depleting ozone layer, protecting oneself from the harmful rays of the sun is increasingly important.

Although people who exercise spend more time outside, they are not more likely to use sunscreen, seek shade, or wear hats and other protective clothing.  If you get out there in the nice weather, please remember to protect yourself from the sun. There is no sense in exchanging the health benefits of exercise for increased risk for cancer.  Here’s how:

1.  WEAR PROTECTION. Wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (UVA and UVB protection) on ALL exposed areas.  If you will be sweating or in the water, use SPF 30 or higher and find a sunscreen that is waterproof.  Apply every 2-3 hours while outside.

2. TIMING. Be aware that the sun is at its most intense between 10am and 4pm.  If it is possible to workout outside of this range, that is best.  However, sun protection is still needed!

3.  THREADS. Even more powerful than sunscreen is protective clothing.  Consider putting on a hat with a brim (a baseball cap or visor is great), a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sunglasses.  Find lightweight clothes so that you don’t get too hot.  Also, check out clothing that has UV protection in the fabric, this will provide the best protection.

4.  BE SHADY. Find a shady trail or route instead of one that is in direct sunlight.  Parks and heavily wooded trails are best.


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  1. Shauna says:

    Great article! Thanks for the reminder. I’m often worried about this very topic as I run outdoors, live in the desert, and I’m allergic to sunscreen. I always know that baseball cap or visor I don isn’t nearly enough protection in the ‘Valley of the Sun’

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