Written by Sajan Patel
With the end in sight for the Pandemic and the rising Spring temperatures, now is the best time to start getting outside. But is physical activity outside actually better for you? This is a breakdown of what happens to your body when you exercise outside, when it is good for you, and when it is awful.
Vitamin D begins production when the skin is hit by sunlight. Vitamin D formation is crucial for bone density formation, decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, and helping to suppress appetite. Also of note is Vitamin D deficiency could be linked to a higher risk of severe Covid-19. Lastly, Vitamin D could be linked to a reduced risk in depression and anxiety.
While it is common to think that exercising in the heat leads to a higher calorie burn, this is simply not true and one of many fitness myths. However, it is worth mentioning that constantly exposing yourself to heat may be linked to increased performance in endurance and heat training. In a study performed by the University of Oregon, they tested two groups of cyclists. One group was given a room at 104 degrees, the other at 55 degrees and both had the same program.
About a week later, the group in the heat performed 6% faster and had 9% better cardiac endurance.
Artificial light such as LED’s have an adverse affect on your body’s natural circadian rhythm, especially when you are exposed to them at night. Your body uses the sun to auto-regulate your circadian rhythm, so making the switch from indoor LED’s to outdoor sunlight could lead to more restful sleep, reduce risk to seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, and even obesity.
So with all that being said, what are the downsides?
Sunburn is an extremely common concern, especially those with family history of sensitive skin or family ancestry from a place with less sun and much higher latitudes. This means that if your ancestors moved from Edinborough to Atlanta, you may want to limit your sun exposure to mimic your personal ancestry.
Dehydration is also a big concern, as sunlight and heat will cause a higher degree of sweat and auto-cooling from your body than indoors. Endurance training such as running can become a hassle when you are constantly carrying around a water bottle that you can’t resupply until a certain point.
So how do you know if you should workout in the sun? Here are a few key points to remember:
1. Go early in the morning. Air quality is overall better along with a reduced harshness of the sun will lead to an overall better experience.
2. Extreme temperatures can cause extreme problems, such as breakouts, sunburns, black spots, and a higher likelihood of skin cancer. Save the tough workouts for days when the sun isn’t burning you up.
3. People will need to moderate the amount of sunscreen they need for their own history and skin, but at least SPF 30 will help to prevent some of the major diseases.
4. Stay hydrated! This applies in and out of the gym as well. Drinking at least a full water bottle before you go can help with your body’s auto-cooling, as well as performance in whatever you do.