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When you exercise outdoors, do you protect your skin from the sun? It might surprise you to know that athletes have a higher risk of developing different forms of skin cancers than other outdoor enthusiasts.

Skin cancer is one of the few types of cancers that is increasing in frequency and rate. It is also one of the more preventable forms of carcinoma. Over 80,000 Canadians are diagnosed yearly with skin and the numbers are increasing. Globally, one in every three cancer diagnoses is skin cancer. Of all the dermal melanomas diagnosed, 80 – 90% are caused by UV radiation.  

Cancerous skin lesions affect everyone and every age group. For athletes, the risks are higher because many training and athletic events are often held during peak daylight hours when the sun’s ultra violet rays are at their highest intensity. Athletic competitors are also exposed to the dangerous radiation are longer periods when they are performing their sport than the average person.

Athletes also have a greater risk because increased perspiration from the physical activity increases the skin’s photosensitivity making your dermis more vulnerable to the harmful elements. Add to the risks, many younger and Masters Athletes do not take the necessary precautions to adequately protect their skin while exercising outdoors.  

For Masters Athletes, the risks are even greater because the thinning skin, a weaker immune system, longer healing times, and previous damage during your younger years effect the body’s ability to fight disease.

As part of a healthy and proactive lifestyle, proper skin care practices should be at the top of the list for all fitness enthusiasts. When exercising outdoors, it is important to take the right precautions to make sure your skin stays protected from all harmful environmental factors during your fitness routines.

The best ways to protect your skin include:

Avoid Exercising During Peak UV Times

Although not always possible, it is important to try to plan your training during the early morning or later evening hours when the sun is not directly overhead and the UV rays are not at their strongest point. During peak ultra violet intensity times, practice indoors, or take other precautionary measures to protect yourself from known carcinogens.

Limit Your Exposure

Exercising outside during the warmer months is a wonderful way to enjoy the often too-short summer months that most provinces and territories experience. However, as much as you want to savour the time out-of-doors, it is still important to limit your exposure to the sunshine and its harmful rays.

Wear Proper Clothing

Less isn’t always more when it comes to being outside in the summer. If you are going to be participating in lengthy training or fitness regiments under the sunny sky, dress to protect your skin. Wear long sleeve shirts, track pants or leggings, hats, sunglasses, and other skin covering workout gear to shield most of your dermis from the powerful cancer causing ultra violet rays.

Stay Hydrated

Because your body is sweating more when you exercise, your skin becomes more vulnerable and sensitive to the sun’s penetrating rays. It is important to keep your body well hydrated by replenishing the fluids your body loses. Drinking water and electrolyte fueled drinks during intense exercise will help your body maintain its balance so it can fight the harmful effects of the environment.

Wear Water Resistant Sunscreen

Many athletes do not think about putting on sunscreen or just don’t wear it at all because they feel that their sweating will remove what they apply. It is true that applying the wrong type of sunblock will wear off much quicker when you perspire and will not properly shield your dermis. Therefore, it is important to use water resistant blocks and that are at least 30 SPF when exercising outside. Applying the lotion liberally at least 20 minutes before heading out and regularly if you are going to be outside for long durations will safeguard your tissue from damage. Some brands are especially designed for athletes and will not wear off easily with your perspiration and rigorous movements. Many fitness focused stores stock high quality sun lotion for their outdoor exercising clientele.

See Your Doctor

Any unusual mole or discoloured bump on the skin should be checked immediately by your doctor. If you see any unusual markings or freckles, visit your doctor. And next time you go for your physical or regular checkup, ask them to check any moles or unusual skin spots and have an open conversation with your health practitioner about your risks.

Skin cancer is a growing global concern, and for masters athletes an even greater hazard. To reduce your risks, developing healthy skin care practises should be part of your complete health focused lifestyle and fitness routine.   

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