By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT
FYZICAL – Forest Grove would love to hear that your summer plans in the Pacific Northwest involve outdoor exercise or movement. But we get it. Some days your maximum exertion involves opening a cold one at Hagg Lake while waiting for the fish to bite.
But no matter how you enjoy the outdoors, stay safe in the summer sun and heat by following these simple tips. It'll make for fonder memories than an emergency room visit or a trip to the dermatologist's office.
Cover up for Cancer Prevention
We've all heard this before. The sun causes wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.
Prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight (and tanning beds) is the culprit, so cover up when you're heading out for a long day in the sun.
But don't just call it good with one coat of sunscreen in the morning for that 8-mile hike at Mt. Hood. Consider using several of these options at a time for maximum sun protection.
- Cover up with clothing. Tightly woven fabrics are best. This includes a wide-brimmed hat that covers the face, ears, back of the neck, and top of the head. Shirts with long sleeves and full-coverage pants or skirts are ideal.
- Apply sunscreen correctly and regularly. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB rays in sunlight.
- Reapply every 2 hours, no matter the SPF, but more frequently if swimming or sweating heavily.
- Keep your bottle of sunscreen out of the heat, which degrades its effectiveness. On hot days, carry it in your beach bag or cooler instead of leaving it in your car or in the sun.
- Expiration dates matter. Your 10-year-old bottle won't be as effective as your new one.
- Don't forget your lips. Choose lip balms and glosses with SPF.
- Take shelter. Spend time under a tree, umbrella, or other shelters.
Protect Your Eyes
Sunglasses are not just for looking cool. Protect those baby blues from cataract formation. Look for sunglasses that filter the UVA and UVB forms of ultraviolet sunlight, and consider a pair that wraps around the sides.
Be strategic when the thermometer starts rising. Prevention and knowing the signs of heat stress are your best defense. Check out this FYZICAL – Forest Grove post reviewing heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
- Hydrate. Recommendations are to take in about 84-100 ounces of fluids daily. This includes fluids from foods as well as beverages. Water is best, but a nice iced tea or glass of wine in the summer is also ok. Don’t solely rely on caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for your hydration, but know they are not as dehydrating as we used to think.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Take it slow during the hottest part of the day. Exercise in the morning or evening instead. If you work outside, plan for breaks or easier tasks.
- Find shade or cool places to rest.
- Get to know the first signs of heat illness. Take action with dizziness, nausea, and excessive sweating. Rest, hydrate, and cool.
Soak up the Vitamin D
There are benefits to sunlight exposure. For example, it's one of the ways we get vitamin D, a necessary nutrient for good bone health.
Vitamin D also affects nerve, muscle, and immune function. A little sun may do you some good, particularly for those of us who live in the northern U.S. where we have less direct sunlight in winter.
You can also get vitamin D from:
- Natural foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver
- Packaged foods where vitamin D is added, as in milk or cereal
One recommendation suggests 15-20 minutes of sunlight between 10a.m. – 2p.m. on skin without sunscreen. Factors such as geographic location, season, skin tone, and age can vary this.
You might get enough sun while running your errands or having mid-morning tea on the back porch, but if you tend to stay inside or fully covered in the summers, consider what adding a little bit of sun each day might do for your health.
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Beth Jennings, PT, MPT is a freelance writer and a physical therapist.
Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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