How Do I Safely Exercise in the Sun?

Healthnotes Newswire (August 13, 2009)—Getting out in the sun stimulates production of vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone development, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is partly responsible for our feelings of emotional contentment. So, take advantage of the sun’s rays, but exercise a few precautions and you’ll have an energizing rather than exhausting summer fitness routine.

Timing is everything

Plan your outdoor workouts for early morning or early evening. The sun is at its hottest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., putting you at risk for dehydration, sunburn, and heat-related conditions. If the temperature climbs to 90°F (32°C) or higher, substitute your planned strenuous activity with a more moderate one. Be strategic when choosing your running, walking, and biking routes; look for shaded bike paths, parks, and trails.

Good fashion sense

Start your day by slathering on sunscreen labeled SPF 15 or higher. Sports sunscreens provide additional water- and sweat-proof protection—especially important for swimmers, kayakers, and other water-bound sports enthusiasts. Dress in light-colored clothing to deflect the sun’s rays. A tightly woven shirt will keep out vexing UV rays and should cover your back, shoulders, and neck. Make sure your clothing is loose fitting so sweat has a chance to evaporate, keeping you cool and comfortable. Don’t forget your helmet, hat, or bandana. Top off your outfit with UV-protection sunglasses.

Drink up!

Sun mixed with humidity can be a dangerous combination if you add strenuous exercise. Normally a hot body cools itself by sweating. When humidity levels rise, sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly and your body temperature can spike dangerously. This can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and, worst-case scenario, heatstroke. Staying hydrated is your best defense. Adults of average weight should drink 12 cups (2.84 liters) of water a day. People of above-average weight should drink additional liquids. Physically active school-age kids should drink 6 to 8 cups (1.42 to 1.9 liters) a day.

During your workout, if you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated—stop! Get out of the sun and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Seek out a shady tree and a tall glass of iced lemonade, and put off your workout for another day. This is one situation where procrastination is a good thing.

Kathleen Finn is a writer and marketing consultant for The Natural Word. She specializes in natural health, food, and fitness material, and has worked on staff at Delicious! Magazine and written for Yoga Journal, Spa Magazine, Natural Foods Merchandiser, and Nutrition Science News. She holds a master's degree in Journalism from University of Colorado in Boulder.

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