It's summer at last - time to get off that treadmill and go outside! But as you dust off your outdoor gear and prepare to transition to working out in the fresh air, it's important to remember how to stay safe while exercising outside.

While there's no better time to be outdoors than the beautiful days of summer, taking some basic precautions can help keep you safe while you get fit.

Give Me Shelter

The sun's rays can cause damaging effects whenever you go out. The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can harm your skin and lead to sunburns, wrinkles, age spots, immune system suppression, and an increased risk for skin cancer. Fortunately, it is reported that unprotected sun exposure is the number-one most preventable risk factor for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. That means you can play a big role in protecting yourself from the harmful effects of UV rays.

The best way to shield yourself from the sun during outdoor activities is to use a high quality sunscreen. Research shows that proper sunscreen use can minimize both short and long-term skin damage from UV radiation. It is recommended to use a sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage; moreover, the sunscreen should be water resistant and contain a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. As an extra precaution, you can pick a sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater.

Watch the Road

Moving your workouts from the gym to the road means you need to become traffic-savvy. Whether you're jogging, biking, or strolling, you need to stay alert for motor vehicles as you exercise. If you're exercising on the sidewalk, be sure to obey all traffic signs and lights when crossing the street. Be careful to watch for other pedestrians and bikers, in addition to cars.

Take special care when exercising in an unfamiliar environment - such as a new route - until you're used to its twists and turns. Outdoor paths on either dirt or cement may contain roots, potholes, or other obstacles that you don't encounter in the gym.

If you're riding a bike you can wear a helmet as an extra precaution as wearing helmet reduces your risk of head injury to a large extent. Generally bicycle riders on public roads are subject to the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and must follow the same rules and regulations. Make sure you ride with traffic and stay visible and alert. You also need to communicate with other riders and drivers by using clear hand signals to indicate when you are planning to make a turn.

It's Hot Outside

With temperatures rising, heat safety must be a priority when it comes to summer fitness. Following are some of the precautions that should be taken to stay safe on hot days:

  • Drink water often, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can make you dehydrated.
  • Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing, which will reflect the sun's rays better than dark clothing.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Slow down your activities or postpone your workout until it's cooler. For example, you can schedule your regular workouts either in the morning or in the evening when the heat is less.
  • Take frequent breaks from outdoor activities when the temperature is high.

Break for H2O

It's important to plan water breaks into your workouts and activities, since perspiration causes you to lose fluid at a higher rate. When exercising in the summer heat, you should drink between two and four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids every hour. You may want to avoid very cold beverages, which can lead to stomach cramps.

To ensure that you are able to hydrate during your breaks, try carrying a water bottle with you. These are available at many sporting goods stores.

HealthAhead Hint: Keep It Safe

You'll enjoy summer activities much more if you stay safe and take care to avoid accidents. Take proper precautions, and you'll be able to stay active and healthy all summer long.