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The Effect of Exercise on Your Skin & How to Protect it Outdoors

The good, the bad, and the sunny.

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Exercise has a positive impact on skin health and may even boast an anti-aging effect on skin.1 Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow and therefore the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s cells. This feeds the skin and aids the process of repair and regeneration.

Exercising outdoors and in the sun may come with even more health benefits.23456 Unfortunately, most of us don’t use enough sun protection when we head outside to work out.789 This can lead to skin damage, increasing the likelihood of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, scaly patches called actinic keratosis, and skin cancer.1011

But by taking the proper precautions you can help protect your skin against the sun and reduce the risk of sun damage. Whether you’re running outdoors, hiking, or playing golf, here’s what to do to stay safe in the sun.

How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun

Step-by-Step Guide

Reduce sun exposure during outdoor exercise with these sun protection strategies:12

  1. Limit time in the midday sun, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Consider exercising after 4pm when the sun is less intense. If you’re outdoors during this time try to seek shade when possible.13
  2. Sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with high SPF on exposed areas, particularly on your face and neck. General advice is to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. However, when exercising and sweating a lot (or swimming), the recommendation is to reapply sunscreen every 40 or 80 minutes, depending the type of water-resistant sunscreen you’re using.14 Water-resistant sunscreens tend be more protective if you’re sweating, and also less likely to run into your eyes.
  3. Cover up. A hat with a brim protects your eyes, ears, face and neck. If it’s not too hot, opt for long-sleeves and long pants to cover your skin. Choose workout clothes with a high UV protection factor (UPF), which indicates the clothing’s ability to block UV rays. Clothes in dark colors generally offer more protection from the sun than light-colored clothes. Furthermore, fabrics like polyester and rayon have a higher UPF than cotton, and are also breathable and moisture-wicking (cotton absorbs moisture and gets heavy when wet, leaving you feeling cold and uncomfortable when you sweat).15
  4. Sunglasses. Choose UV-blocking sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Consider wraparound sunglasses that keep the sun out from all angles. Make sure your sunglasses stay put and resist slipping, even when your skin gets moist and sweaty.16

Exercising outdoors in the sunshine has a bevy of benefits on both physical and mental health. But it’s important to reduce the risks associated with sun exposure. So protect your skin from the sun. And trust me on the sunscreen.

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