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How to protect your skin when exercising outside

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After seemingly endless months of cold, rain and wind the advent of British Summer Time can literally feel like a ray of sunshine for many of us.

The days get longer, the sun puts in an appearance and we can all feel a little sprightlier, call it a spring in our step. Moreover, it's a great time to get out and get active. The extra hours of sunshine are the perfect excuse to go for an evening stroll, hop on your bike or put on your running shoes.

However, more daylight hours means our skin is inevitably exposed to the sun for longer so protecting it should become even more of a priority. However, that's not to say we shouldn't protect our skin during the winter months as Ultra Violet (UV) rays, although not as strong as in summer months, can still cause damage. There are many ways to protect your skin during your outdoor workouts, all year round:

Up the SPF

It may seem like the most basic of rules, but applying SPF when exercising outdoors is crucial to protecting your skin from premature ageing and higher risks such as melanoma. A recent study by the Archives of Dermatology found that regular marathon runners showed an increased number of abnormal moles and age spots.1 Now for most of us mere mortals, this may seem like an irrelevant fact but add in a daily stroll, bike ride or outdoor yoga session and your exposure to the sun all adds up.

Don't get us wrong, the sun has plenty of health rewards to reap but taking a sensible approach to protecting your skin from it, especially when working up a sweat, is the best way to keep your skin youthful, hydrated and healthy. Dermatologists have long advised us to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and to reapply every 2 hours. However, when sweating or swimming reapplication should be more regular. Opt for a light, oil-free moisturiser with SPF to both protect your skin and keep it hydrated as sweat and sun exposure can dry it out.

Cover all bases

It's not just our faces that we need to think about when taking our workouts outside. In the summer months especially, when it's tempting to wear sleeveless tops and shorts for a sweaty jog, tennis match or aerobics class in the park remember to generously apply sunscreen to exposed skin.

If you prefer to cover up, it's worth bearing in mind what protection your clothes can actually offer you against the sun's harmful rays. According to the American Skin Cancer Foundation, the darker the colour of your clothes, the better UV defense they offer; this is because darker colours such as black or red are able to absorb more Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR) before it can reach and damage your skin.2 It may also be worth considering clothes with a futuristic-sounding Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), especially if you regularly exercise outside.

Further protection

Caring for your skin in the sun goes further than just SPF and protective clothing. It's easy to forget certain areas or aspects of our body so remember to:

  • Protect your eyes. Wearing sunglasses with UV protection not only shields your eyes from sun damage but also helps protect the delicate skin surrounding them, which are prone to ageing first.
  • Shield your scalp and hair. Tie hair up or wear a cap to protect your scalp from harsh rays and your hair from drying out.
  • Stay hydrated. Outdoor activities, however gentle, can lead to sweating and an increased risk of dehydration.

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