It’s heating up outside, and that means it’s a good time to review some health and safety pointers for doing physical activity in the sun and rising temperatures. Whether it’s running, biking, swimming or yardwork, take some time to prepare yourself for the outdoors and make your outside time safer and more enjoyable.
Sunscreen is a must for any time spent outside, whether you are exerting yourself or simply sitting outside and enjoying the nice weather. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Seek water resistant sunscreens if you will be sweating or swimming. Be sure to reapply every two hours, or as needed, and apply to your entire body, not just the parts of your skin that are obviously exposed. Keep in mind that no sunscreen, regardless of the SPF, can block all of the sun’s harmful rays, so take other measures as well, including wearing a hat or sun-blocking garment and seeking periodic shade.
Staying hydrated is another essential step before outside activities, especially anything strenuous. Drink water during the hour before you plan to head outside to ensure you are not going into your workout dehydrated. Take water with you and sip throughout your activity. Drinking water regularly is often overlooked during activities like swimming and other watersports. Your body temperature does not rise as much while being cooled by the water, but it is just as important to stay hydrated during these activities as during an outdoor jog or bike ride. If you feel any signs of dehydration, including headaches, dizziness, cramping or strong thirst, cut your activity short and head somewhere you can rehydrate. You may consider drinking something that is supplemented with electrolytes when exercising in the heat to help replenish those that you have lost.
Check temperatures and the weather before deciding when to exercise outside. On days with strong sun and little cloud cover, or when temperatures are very high, consider keeping workouts and activities to earlier morning and later evening times when it has cooled down and the sunlight is less direct. Exercise is important, but there are some days when it is just too hot to exert yourself safely. Checking weather advisories can help you make that call.
The human body reacts differently to exercising in the sun and heat as opposed to in cooler conditions or inside, and it is important to keep that in mind during your outdoor activities. The same 3 mile run you do on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym will require more energy when done outside in the heat. Allow yourself time to adjust to the temperature outside before ramping up your workout. You can start with a brisk walk before getting into a full-on run, for example. Slow down or take a break if you notice signs of exhaustion, dehydration, overheating or sunburn. The Cleveland Clinic offers some helpful tips for staying safe during outside workouts.