A man runs on a treadmill indoors.

Skin Cancer and Exercise

I love to exercise. I lost over 70 pounds in 2016-2017 through changing my diet and walking. I started tracking my steps and made sure that I reached my 10,000 step goal every day, no matter the weather. Most of the time I enjoyed the great outdoors, but sometimes the Buffalo winters kept me indoors. As a melanoma survivor, I have had to modify my exercise regimen to protect my skin. Here are my thoughts on exercising and skin cancer.

Post-surgical exercise

I had a very large diamond-shaped portion of skin excised from my forearm. It was so large in fact that the surgeon could not stretch my existing skin enough to close the wound. Unfortunately, I would have to deal with an open would for a short time and this changed my exercise routine. Basically, I needed to give the skin on my arm time to become elastic enough to handle my range of motion. It was very uncomfortable to have the skin on my arm stretched so tight.

Coping with my wound so I could get back in the game

I massaged the skin on my arm and began to gently move my arm to loosen it up making sure that I was not damaging the previously sutured area. My dermatologist recommended scar creams that helped bring ultimate healing to the area so that I could do things like play tennis or golf. I took my time and eventually made a full recovery.

Safe sun exercise practices

Growing up in Southern California, I was always exercising outdoors. During the summer, it was pool and beach activities and in the winter months, it was just about everything else under the sun. I have learned to modify my schedule and work out indoors between the hours of 10:00 am-2:00 pm.

Adapting my routine to make it sun-safe

Whether I am on a treadmill, exercise bike, or walking in a mall, I find ways to “get my sweat on” without exposing my skin to burning rays. There are times, though when I want to be outside for extended periods and I will prepare in advance. This means applying (and bringing with me) plenty of SPF30 or higher, broad-spectrum sunscreen (and reapplying often after swimming or sweating). It also means wearing a hat, sunglasses and covering my skin with UPF clothing, when feasible.

Protecting myself no matter the weather

Dangerous rays penetrate cloud layers. I apply sunscreen and try to watch my sun exposure on overcast days as well. Often I am near water where the sun’s rays reflect and can expose my skin to ultraviolet rays. I always try to be aware of where I am in relation to the sun whether I am hiking, jogging, or simply strolling in a park. Simply put, I take sun exposure into account as much as other factors like hydration, nutrition, and stretching.

Adjusting my routine to do what I love

I want to give special attention to bicycling. I love riding my mountain bike, but I have learned that sun exposure while biking can be deceiving. If I am riding fifteen miles an hour, I always feel cool no matter the time of day or how directly the sun is hitting me. I never feel like I am getting too much sun as the breeze wicks away the sweat off my skin (and probably the sunscreen protection with it) and cools me off. I have learned to bring sunscreen with me on my rides and reapply as a matter of habit because of this cooling effect.

Not letting skin cancer break my stride

I don’t want skin cancer to run my life to such an extent that I don’t go outside and exercise. I just need to take precautions about when and where I work out and play. Smart, sun-safe practices take a little planning but are completely manageable. See you on the trail, beach, field, or course!

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