Staying sun safe while exercising outdoors

According to Cancer Council Australia, “approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year.”

That’s a huge and scary statistic, with Australia’s incidence of skin cancer two to three times the rates in the US, Canada and the UK. The majority of these skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, so it’s imperative that we take all necessary precautions to reduce our risk.

With such beautiful weather for most of the year, Australians love to exercise outside. And we don’t blame you! Exercising outdoors has many benefits including:

  • Keeping things interesting with changes in the environment you work out in.
  • It’s a great way to meet neighbours and locals in your area.
  • Wind resistance can help you burn more kilojoules.
  • It’s free!
  • Sweating outside feels so much more invigorating than it does indoors.
  • An outdoor workout can be a good excuse to include your partner or kids (or both!).

So how do we stay sun safe while enjoying our outdoor workout?

Slapping on some sunscreen

A good quality, high SPF sunscreen will act as your first line of defence for any areas of exposed skin. Keep it at home, in the car or in your workout bag, so it’s always available.

Apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours. On the label look for:

  • Sweat or water resistant
  • Full-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB
  • An SPF of at least 30+
  • A valid expiry date

Make sure you’re applying your sunscreen to even hard to reach or often forgotten areas like the back of the neck, ears and your feet. And don’t think a cloudy or rainy day means you can skip the sunscreen, clouds don’t stop UV rays!

Head to the shade

Try and schedule your workouts out of the hottest parts of the day (usually between 10am to 3pm). Early mornings and late afternoons are best. If you do need to exercise in the middle of the day, look for a shady spot or sheltered track. If you’re headed to a group exercise class like yoga or boot camp, ask your instructor to look for a covered area.

Cover with clothing

Covering your skin with clothing is an easy and effective way to protect yourself from the sun. Your best bet is a dense fabric in a dark or bright colour. You can also find specifically designed fabrics which are made with special UV absorbing materials. Look out for an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 30 or higher. Your workout kit should also include a hat and UV rated sunglasses to complete your sun safety outfit.

An extra tip: Drink lots of fluids

An outdoor workout can mean warmer weather and more sweating. If you can, carry or take a water bottle with you. If that’s not possible, try to work out in an area with public drinking fountains. Sweat an exceptional amount? A sports drink loaded with electrolytes might also be helpful (these can also include loads of sugar, so be mindful).

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