Sunburn and sun protection are key factors in outdoor sports and exercise, especially in hot and humid situations. Sunburn has an impact on thermoregulation and the dissipation of excess heat, which can have a significant impact on performance. Increases the risk of heat-related illness in athletes. Sweating, while necessary for thermoregulation, also increases photosensitivity to the sun, which reduces the amount of UV exposure (ultraviolet radiation) needed before sunburn occurs.
However, in order to acclimatize for competition, athletes must occasionally train in hot, humid, and frequently high UV (ultraviolet radiation) conditions, or simply cannot control the times and locations of events and practices. . So what are athletes and recreational athletes to do if they can’t escape the sun?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss effective treatments and precautions athletes can take to ensure skin safety while playing sports. These protective measures are especially important because physical activity is linked to a 28% increased risk of melanoma, primarily through sunburn rather than direct exercise.
Strategies to maintain optimal skin health as an athlete
One of the most important steps in minimizing the risk of sun damage while playing sports is to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. This can be done by using sunscreen. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
Be generous with the application of sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin, including the face, neck, arms, bald spots, the backs of the hands, and the tops of the feet. Be sure to reapply every two hours, especially if you are sweating profusely or engaging in water sports. Choose a sunscreen that is waterproof to maintain its effectiveness during physical activities.
Find shade and time your activities
When possible, avoid playing sports in the middle of the day and getting burned by the summer sun, when the sun’s UV levels are at their highest. To check the UV level of the sun, scroll down on your iPhone when viewing the current temperature in the weather app to locate the current UV value. Any reading above 2 is harmful to the skin. Try to schedule your sports sessions during the early morning or late afternoon. Seek shade whenever possible, especially during breaks or rest periods.
Wear protective clothing and accessories
Choosing the right clothing and accessories can significantly reduce your sun exposure. Opt for light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing that covers your arms, legs, and neck. Look for fabrics with a tight weave, as they offer better sun protection. Some brands even offer specifically designed clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings that provide additional sun protection. If you’re training in an open field or track, try bringing a portable umbrella or canopy to create your own shade.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears, and neck from direct sunlight. Also, invest in a good pair of UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays. Wrap styles offer better coverage. If you are prone to dry lips or cold sores, consider using a lip balm with SPF to protect your lips as well.
Adequate hydration is crucial to maintain healthy skin and regulate body temperature. When you’re active in the sun, your risk of dehydration increases. Dehydrated skin is more susceptible to sunburn and damage, so maintaining optimal hydration levels will help protect your skin from the inside out.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your activities to stay adequately hydrated. It is recommended that the athlete consume 7 to 12 ounces (approx. 1 to 2 glasses) of cold liquid 15 to 30 minutes before a workout. Hydration after exercise should seek to compensate for any fluid loss that may have occurred during practice or competition.
As an athlete, it is essential to prioritize sun protection to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation to ensure both your short-term performance and your long-term health. While sunlight is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D, overexposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer.
By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can minimize the risk of sun damage and maintain healthy skin for the long term. Remember to wear sunscreen, seek shade, time your activities wisely, wear protective clothing and accessories, and stay hydrated. Taking these precautions will not only contribute to your athletic performance, but will also protect you from the risks associated with prolonged sun exposure. Make sun protection a habit and your skin will thank you!
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