Tips to stay safe in the summer sunshine

It seems that in July, we are in full-fledged summer. The Fourth of July holiday practically requires you to spend the day outside participating in parades, barbecuing, and viewing fireworks.  And here in Colorado, it’s often the time of year where we get our first multi-day stretches of weather in the 90s. With the summer, hopefully there is an increased chance of getting outside and being active, but here are a few thoughts to consider when staying active in the heat.

The CDC reminds us that ultraviolet (UV) damage from the sun can happen in as little as 15 minutes, so it’s important to protect our skin.  These include the common forms of clothing choices, sunscreen, and finding shade.

  • When choosing clothing, aim for hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves and long pants when possible. Go for clothing with a tight woven structure, and darker clothes will almost always provide more sun protection than lighter. Don’t forget about wet versus dry, a wet light-colored t-shirt has less protection than a dry one. Clothing also doesn’t negate the need for sunscreen – with clothing, you should still utilize other forms of sun protection.
  • For sunscreen, we’ve all heard of SPF and should aim for at least a broad-spectrum SPF of 15 or higher. It should be re-applied at minimum every two hours, or again after any portion of swimming, or sweating. Don’t forget your make-up or other daily routine items to try and use SPF. And for all products make sure you check the expiration date if your bottle has lasted a few summers it’s time for a new one. Some bottles may not have an expiration but it’s estimated that most should be replaced after three years, and more often if exposed to high temperatures (think sitting in the car, beach bags, etc.)
  • All of the above applies to when you’re in the shade as well. Shade protection isn’t enough, so don’t think a cloudy day or being mostly under the umbrella you’re scot-free. Use the shade whenever possible to take a sun break and think ahead to bring it with you in the form of tents, umbrellas or wide-brimmed hats.

When exercising it’s important to keep in mind a few extra precautions. Exercise already places stress on the body and increase in outside temperature and humidity will place even more stress on the body during a bout of exercise.

  • Be aware of heat-related illnesses that may be exacerbated by exercise, which may require a change in duration or intensity of your workout. Hopefully, the adjustment to the workout will prevent the heat/muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
  • These can occur with rapid increases in internal body temperature with unregulated cooling often causing cramps, nausea, weakness, fatigue, confusion, irritability, visual problems, increased heart rate and more.
  • When trying to exercise in the heat, take the time to check in on the weather/temperature to know what you’re getting into. You should still use the same UV protection as suggested above. Stay hydrated, take time to get acclimated, and adjust your workouts as needed. This may mean that when it’s too hot outside, you will need to exercise indoors.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more, see the Adult Fitness Program website