Be Smart About Exercising in the Heat

Posted by Kaerrie Hall

Aug 18, 2016 4:26:20 PM

It's the hottest summer on record. Exercise smart in the heat.

It’s amazing, the commitment people have to being outdoors, even in this sweltering heat. Playing golf, going to the ballpark, fishing, boating, laying on the beach. How does that NOT feel like you’re a pizza baking in a brick oven? But exercising in this heat? You’ve obviously got the will, but are you doing it the right way?

If our current temperature trend continues, NASA predicts 2016 will surpass 2015 as the hottest year on record. With record-breaking temperatures and the last day of summer still over one month away, make sure you’re following these tips for being smart about exercising in the heat.

Talk To Your Doctor

Before you exercise, check with your doctor to make sure the exercise you choose is right for your health. Let your doctor know if you plan to do that exercise inside or outside so he or she can advise you on how to do it safely.

Keep in mind that your age, health, and even medications you take can play a role in whether or not it’s wise to be outside in high temperatures. Individuals over age 65 tend to adjust to heat more slowly than other people and those with chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, can be at greater risk for feeling the negative effects of heat.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Just by being outside in such hot temperatures, you will be draining your body of fluids. Add exercise to the mix, and you really need to watch your fluid intake. Make sure you get enough fluid before, during, and after your workout. And if you’re going to go for a long bike ride, walk, jog, or similar activity, take along a water bottle with plenty of water and know where you can stop along your route for more.

Talk to your doctor about the amount of water you should be drinking in relation to your exercise routine. Some doctors recommend drinking 24 ounces of water two hours before exercise and 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes of exercise, even if you aren’t feeling thirsty. But if you have certain conditions, such as epilepsy or heart, liver, or kidney disease, have a tendency to retain fluids, or are on fluid-restricted diets, your plan may be different.

Exercise in cooler times of the day, or in shady or breezy places, to keep from overheating.

Consider Your Options

Can you get your workout in during the morning or the evening hours when temperatures are a bit lower? If you’re walking or bicycling, is there a path that’s well shaded and has places where you can take an occasional break? Does your community have a park with boardwalks or trails with minimal exposure to the sun? Is there a gym that offers an indoor jogging track where you can get a good workout in and save your outdoor time for less strenuous activities?

Dress Right

Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabric, such as cotton. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat that blocks the sun off your face and neck can also cut down on your exposure to the heat. And be sure to use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or more.

Listen To Your Body

Don't push yourself to unsafe levels. If you start to feel ill, dizzy, or nauseous, or if you experience heat cramps (muscle spasms that are painful, involuntary, brief, intermittent) or heat syncope (fainting/sudden brief loss of consciousness), you need to stop what you are doing immediately.

Likewise, know how to spot and avoid the two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion.

Mix high temperatures with a lack of fluids and you may experience signs of water depletion: weakness, headaches, intense thirst, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

With salt depletion, you may be taking in fluids, but not in a way that replaces the salt losses. Symptoms tend to include nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramps. Contact your doctor if you experience symptoms of salt depletion so he or she can determine if you need to drink electrolyte-rich sports drinks to replenish the salt lost.

Other symptoms people may experience with heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion and dizziness

  • Fainting

  • Fatigue

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Pale skin

  • Profuse sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat

Stay hydrated to keep your body efficiently regulating its temperature.

If you begin to notice the signs of heat exhaustion, it's important to get out of the sun and heat immediately, find a cool place to lie down and rest, and drink plenty of cold liquids. If you don’t allow yourself enough time to recover, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can cause permanent damage to the brain and other organs, and potentially cause death.

If your symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes or if you suspect you might be suffering from heat stroke, get immediate medical attention.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit); throbbing headache; rapid heartbeat (which can be weak or strong); red, hot, and dry skin; lack of sweating even though the temperatures are high; feeling faint; staggering; rapid, shallow breathing; changes in mental state (such as confusion or combativeness); or, in some cases, loss of consciousness or coma.

If you or someone you are with seems to be exhibiting these symptoms, get them to the hospital or call 911 right away and get them out of the sun and into the coolest area you can find, preferably in air conditioning. Fan air over the person and wet their skin. If possible, apply a cold, wet cloth or ice packs if you have them to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. Blood passes close to the surface of your skin in these areas so doing this can help cool your blood vessels and possibly reduce your body temperature faster.

Beat the Heat

These tips for beating the heat are great to keep in mind any time you’re out in the sun, not just when you’re exercising. And remember, you don’t have to sacrifice outdoor activities just because temperatures rise, but you do want to make smart choices that help you keep your cool!


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