Being Outdoors: Health Benefits and Safety Precautions

A woman reads in a shady garden

Ah, it’s summertime at last. Even in the heat and humidity, I still find there’s something special about this season.

Maybe it’s the crickets singing in the afternoon and the lightning bugs twinkling after sunset. Or possibly it’s a nostalgic carry-over from childhood, when summertime meant no school and idyllic trips to the beach.

Whenever it’s cool enough, I hope we’ll all spend as much time outdoors as possible. I find it tragic that we often spend so much time inside, all year round, we hardly even experience the seasons anymore.

Even if you don’t go on any vacations, trips, or excursions, there are plenty of relaxing and enjoyable things you can do right outside your home. For instance:

  • Exercising
  • Reading
  • Sitting on your porch
  • Gardening
  • Planting veggies

But what’s so great about being outside? Let me tell you!

Being Outside Is Good For You

Exposure to nature has many proven mental health benefits. Outdoor activities often involve some form of exercise, which is incredibly beneficial and necessary. And soaking up some sun is one of the best ways to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.

It’s a win-win … as long as you take good care of your skin.

Protect Yourself with Sun Safety

Remember, UV radiation from the sun is not only dangerous, but it’s sneaky too. Besides causing premature aging and skin cancer, UV rays can penetrate even when you think you aren’t in the sun. UV radiation can bounce off surfaces like sand, water, and snow. And it can pass through glass and clouds.

Skin cancer isn’t just caused by long stretches of time in the sun (for example, being a lifeguard at the beach for many years). The deadly effects of UV rays can also accumulate over time from lots of small, short exposures, like walking your dog each day or driving in your car.

Now that beautiful weather is here, we’re all itching to get out of the house more. When you do, practice sun safety! Remember the Skin Cancer Foundation’s tips to protect your skin in the sun:

  • Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Don’t get sunburned.
  • Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher every day.
  • For extended periods outside, use a water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Apply one ounce (about two tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going out. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • Consider scheduling an annual check-up with a dermatologist.

Now that you know how to enjoy the sunshine safely, I hope you’ll spend a lot of time outside this summer!

Dr. Heidi J. Syropoulos

About Dr. Heidi J. Syropoulos

I joined Independence Blue Cross in 2015 after practicing Geriatrics for nearly 30 years. In my current role I function as the medical liaison to our Government markets team, serving as a subject matter expert on clinical medicine and healthcare delivery. What I love about my new position is the opportunity to help an entire population of people through the benefits of their health plan.