In the spirit of Memorial Day weekend and the seemingly limitless temptations beckoning us to venture outside, I wanted to take this opportunity to drill the importance of protecting your skin from overexposure to the sun.
What does sunscreen have to do with fitness? Consider this: Denver inhabitants enjoy 300 days of sunshine per year. That’s more doses of daylight  than Miami or San Diego. What’s more, living at high altitude, sun rays are not filtered as efficiently by the atmosphere as they would be a sea level. We are, technically, closer to the sun.

In case you haven’t heard, Denver boasts some of the healthiest, thinnest, and fittest population in the country.

Guess where the majority of these specimens get their endorphin fix? Outdoors — whether cycling on one of the 80-plus miles of trails within the City and County perimeters; running the stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater; sweating away at any of Denver’s 200 parks; climbing the Rocky Mountains; hanging precariously off of the Naked Edge in Eldorado Canyon; or rafting down the raging Colorado River (Whew! Let me catch my breath…) — something tells me that one’s Sun Protection Factor is low on one’s priority list.

Here’s why it should climb a few notches: Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S.  Around 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to UV radiation. Instances of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in Colorado is 30 percent higher than U.S. rates, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Vanity aside (hello, wrinkles!), premature aging of our skin is a sign of sun damage. Other noticeable afflictions take on the appearance of moles. Word to the wise: If you notice a mole on your body to be changing in shape, size, or color, see a dermatologist — ASAP.
The damage appears to be cumulative. That sunburn you got when you fell asleep in the tanning bed back in college? It may come back to haunt you in your forties. Just like our muscles have memory, our skin retains past information and experiences.

Prevention is easy. Wear a hat. Put on your sunglasses. Choose an SPF of at least 15 and be sure that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays (also labeled as “broad-spectrum”). Keep in mind that these lotions do lose potency after time, so check the expiration date. Apply and re-apply every couple of hours, or if your sweat-fest got the better of you.

May happens to be Skin Cancer Awareness Month. You can find free screenings and other information at the Skin Cancer Foundation website.

While I am not prone to fear-mongering,  I do want you to listen to the little voice in the back of your mind you hear whenever you spend any time in the sun,  reminding you to: Go SPF Yourself! With love, of course.


Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She has recently begun contributing to 303 Magazine as a fitness writer.