It’s no secret that working out in a gym can be less than exciting. From sweat-soaked exercise machines to broken machinery, you might spend your whole visit counting down the minutes until you can go outside. Fortunately, the Great Outdoors offers plenty of opportunities to lose weight and get fit—and you don’t have to restrict your workouts to certain times of the year. With a little research and preparation, you can safely and effectively get your exercise on outside year round.
Exercising in Summer
Whether you want to hit the open road on your bike or hike the trails on foot, protecting your skin during the summer months is essential. Here are some tips for exercising outdoors when the mercury rises.
Slather on the Sunscreen
We all know UV ray exposure can be bad for our health. But how bad, exactly? According to a recent TIME Magazine article, suffering just five sunburns when you’re young can increase your odds of developing melanoma by 80%. Luckily, slathering on the sunscreen can go a long way toward protecting against skin cancer. According to reports by the Melanoma Research Foundation, using sunblock regularly can drop your cancer risk by by 50-73%.
Start by choosing the right sun protection factor. For best results, choose an SPF of 30 or higher and make sure its waterproof. Additionally, a sports sunscreen should protect against both UVB and UVA rays. Aim to apply an ounce at a time, focusing on easy-to-miss areas like the back of the neck, and make sure to reapply every two hours.
Finally, you can reduce your odds of getting sick by limiting the time you spend outside when UV rays are at their worst. The most sun-intense part of the day is between 10 am and 4 pm, so get in your jog first thing in the morning or hit the trails on your bike after dinner. If you do choose to run or bike at night, wear reflective clothing so you’re easily visible to traffic.
Opt for Antioxidants
If you want to protect your skin during those sweat-drenched summer workouts, it’s important to get in plenty of antioxidants. Not only does drinking green tea and other antioxidant-rich beverages help keep you hydrated on hot days, but it also protects you from the sun’s damaging rays. Polyphenols and other nutrients in antioxidants work by blocking free radicals and other molecules harmful to your skin. As a bonus, green tea is packed with nutrients known to raise good cholesterol levels and aid in weight loss. Be sure to drink plenty of water, as well, and bring a water bottle along on long runs or bike rides.
Dress the Part
When temperatures soar, you might be tempted to start shedding layers. But the truth is exposing your skin to the sun can do more harm than good. Wearing lightweight clothing that provides good coverage keeps you safe without overheating. Wear a polyester hat with vented panels and moisture wicking if you’re going to be outside for a prolonged period.
If you do choose to exercise outdoors in the summer, stay alert to the signs of heat stroke in yourself and others. These include:
- Hot skin that’s dry to the touch (no sweating)
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Mental confusion
- A body temperature over 105 degrees
- Loss of consciousness
If you or a loved one is experiencing the above signs, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. In general, staying cool and hydrated is the best way to remain safe outdoors.
Working Out in Winter
Just because the mercury drops doesn’t mean you have to restrict your exercise session to the gym. From skiing to snowshoeing, here are some tips for staying safe and warm during a winter workout.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
Think sunblock is optional during the winter months? On the contrary, you can still suffer a sunburn on days when temperatures plummet. Whether you’re hitting the slopes or the trails, wear sunscreen on exposed parts of the body (think hands, nose, and ears) and choose a lip balm with SPF. Remember: you can get a sunburn even if the day seems cloudy.
Having trouble remembering to apply sunscreen every morning? Make things easy for yourself by choosing a moisturizer that has sunblock included in the formula. You’ll protect your skin while simplifying your morning grooming ritual.
Loose and Light Layers
Layers are crucial when you’re working out in winter, but you need to take care not to overheat. For best results, stay outfitted in lighter colors that reflect rather than absorb heat. Instead of heavy cotton or wool blends, choose clothing made from polyester for your bottom layers. Some of the newer high-tech fabrics even repel moisture, making them great for exercising in the snow. The goal is to avoid excess sweating, as this can lead to chills, muscle tightness, and discomfort. If you’re planning to hit the ski trails or head out on a winter hike, be sure to bring a fleece pullover or other insulation layer in case the temperatures drop while you’re out and about.
Have a Snack
Eating for cold-weather workouts requires careful consideration. Because your body is constantly breathing in cold, dry air in winter, getting dehydrated during an outdoor exercise session is all too common. For this reason, drinking plenty of water is essential. You should also aim to consume some complex carbs about two hours prior to a winter workout. Think whole grain bread and peanut butter or a baked potato with low-fat cheese.
Plan to be out all day? Pack an extra water bottle and some energy bars to keep you going. With a little planning, you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors all year long.