Summer sun safety for swimmers

Swimmers need to protect their skin when workout in an outdoor pool.

Swimmers need to protect their skin when workout in an outdoor pool.

Summer is here and it's likely that you'll be doing some of your swimming outdoors. One risk you face in open water or an outdoor pool that you don't have to deal with at your gym is prolonged sun exposure. Contrary to some popular beliefs, splashing around in the water doesn't protect your skin from the sun's rays.

Here are a few factors to consider when it comes to sun exposure and outdoor swimming: 

Finding a healthy balance

Sun exposure is one of the few ways in which individuals can get enough vitamin D. This nutrient is vital for calcium absorption. Many health professionals recommend about 15 minutes of exposure on a mildly sunny day. Spending too much time outside could result in skin damage.  If you are involved in intense training, however, you will spend much more than 15 minutes outdoors. UV light can also reflect of the surface of the water or the bottom of a pool, so just being in the water does not necessarily provide sufficient protection. 

To protect your skin, you will need to apply a generous amount of sunscreen about 15 minutes before hopping into the water. Any product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is recommended. It's important to remember that you will need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day — whether or not the product claims that it is water resistant. In addition to sunscreen, you could also swim in a special sun shirt that can go over your competitive swimwear

Energy levels 

Spending time out in the sun cannot only affect your skin, but can also leave you feeling physically drained. When you're not swimming, stay in the shade and and wear a hat and protective sunglasses. It's also important to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and lightheadedness. If you don't feel well while you're swimming, don't be afraid to stop for a while. 

Burns and overexposure 

Sunburns are uncomfortable, but they can have even more severe consequences like skin cancer after accumulated overexposure. You should take note of how much time you are spending out in the sun and talk to your healthcare provider for suggestions about how to stay safe in the sun. Also be mindful of skin cancer risk factors like family history and skin tone. In addition, be on the lookout for moles that seem to change shape. To reduce your exposure, schedule your workouts for early morning or late afternoon, as the sun's rays are weaker at these times.