Summer usually means more time and opportunities for physical activities outside. But as much as we adore a beautiful day and golden rays, it’s crucial to remember that the sun can also pose serious risks to our health, especially if we don’t take necessary precautions. So, before you head out for that walk, run, bike ride, or whatever else you like to do to stay active, let’s chat about how to stay safe under the summer sun.

Timing Is Everything: When to Avoid the Heat

First things first, let’s talk about timing. Did you know that the sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.? Those are the peak hours when UV rays are at their most potent. If possible, try to schedule your outdoor activities either before or after this timeframe to reduce your exposure to harmful rays.

In some regions, temperatures can reach triple digits, making it crucial to stay hydrated. Pre-hydrating and staying hydrated during and after activities is very important. The best fluid to drink? Water, water, water. Avoid products that are loaded with sugar, caffeine, or alcohol — as these can dehydrate the body and cause other negative health issues.

It’s also important to seek shade whenever possible. Consider early morning walks or evening jogs as opposed to midday. Or, consider running indoors at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center. The Mary Sue Rich Community Center is free for Ocala residents and has an indoor walking track and gym.

Sunscreen and UV-Blocking Gear

Staying active during the summer is a must, and if you’re going to be in the sun, so is choosing the right sunscreen. For young children, stick with mineral-based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these are less likely to cause irritation. Active adults might prefer a water-resistant formula that can withstand sweat and swimming, while older individuals may opt for a moisturizing sunscreen to combat dryness.

The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) you need depends on your age and skin type. For babies and toddlers, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. As we age, our skin becomes more resilient, but that doesn’t mean we’re invincible. Adults should also aim for an SPF of 30 or higher, while older individuals may benefit from an SPF of 15 or higher.

However, sunscreen is just one piece of the puzzle. To truly shield yourself from harmful UV rays, consider investing in sun-protective gear like wide-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and clothing with built-in SPF. These extra layers of protection can help minimize sun damage and keep you feeling cool and comfortable all summer long.

Speaking of sun damage, let’s talk about UV radiation. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to a host of skin issues, including sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer. That’s why it’s essential to take sun safety seriously, especially during the hottest parts of the day when UV radiation is most intense. Any skin changes warrant a visit to the dermatologist, and all adults should schedule a skin screening each year.

Staying Safe While Staying Active

Whether you’re spending time outdoors for picnics or engaging in physical activity, be prepared to spot and treat heat-related illness. If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or fatigued, don’t ignore the signs: Find shade, drink water, and seek medical attention if necessary. Always allow your body time to rest and recover after workouts, even if you’re feeling fine.

Summer is a time for fun in the sun, but it’s essential to prioritize your health and safety along the way. By following these safety tips and taking proactive measures to protect yourself and loved ones from harmful UV rays, you can stay active all summer.

If you’re ready to get active, here are six walking trips in Marion County to get yourself moving. For free classes on nutrition and exercise, and step challenges for moral support, contact the Active Marion Project at We can also bring free wellness sessions on the topic of your choice to your worksite.