MACON – Everyone is ready to exercise outside during the spring and summer months, but staff at Mercer University's Wellness Program say extra precautions need to be taken before heading out the door.
According to Karen Reynolds, assistant director of recreational sports and wellness on Mercer's Atlanta campus, the increase in heat and humidity need to be accounted for when working out. She suggests the following tips to adjusting your exercise routine:
- Avoid exercising when the heat and humidity are greatest.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear loose clothing (made of cotton or sweat-wicking material).
- Wear sunscreen, a hat or cap, and sunglasses to avoid direct sunlight.
- Acclimate yourself slowly - chances are you will not be able to exercise as much in the heat.
Nurse practitioner Rita Williams, also on the Atlanta campus, has health tips for those who plan on traveling this summer. "Carry a supply of your prescription medicines to last the entire trip – don't pack the whole supply," she suggests. "Always keep medicines in their original prescription container. This is particularly important in foreign travel."
Williams also says that travelers whose medical insurance does not cover care outside of the United States should consider purchasing special travel insurance. She suggests that travelers carry a personal medical kit complete with aspirin or Tylenol, antacids, antihistamines, diarrhea medicine, motion sickness pills, sunscreen, insect repellent, antiseptic sprays or ointments, and other useful items. Those with a special health problem or allergy should wear or carry a medical alert information tag.
Another aspect of summer health care is damage to skin caused by the sun. Laura Childs, fitness center manager on Mercer's Macon campus, notes that skin cancers are on the rise and says the American Academy of Dermatology is warning of an alarming increase in skin cancer due to tanning bed use and continued excessive exposure to ultraviolet light as the culprit.
Childs recommends several steps to protect your skin and prevent risk of skin cancer:
- Apply sunscreen. Before you head outside, always slather on sunscreen. You should use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 15. You should re-apply at least every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Unless there is an expiration date noted on the bottle, most sunscreens are good for three years.
- Wear protective clothing. Although not always "fashionable" during summer, you should wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin from the sun's rays. Don't forget sunglasses to protect your eyes as well.
- Seek shade. It is best to avoid direct exposure during the hottest hours of the day when the sun's rays are strongest, around .
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand. These elements reflect the sun's rays and can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Do self-examinations. Be aware of any changes in your skin. If you notice any changes, such as spots or moles growing larger or bleeding, see your dermatologist.
"There is not a safe way to tan," Childs says. "Not only do the sun's rays lead to skin cancer, prolonged sun exposure also causes premature aging, wrinkles, immunosuppression, cataracts, and macular degeneration."
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education, the University has 7,300 students; 10 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology and nursing; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university; teaching hospitals in Macon and Savannah; an educational partnership with Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.