Exercising In Hot Weather
Are you feeling hot, hot, hot (figuratively and literally) and exercising in hot weather? The hot weather is here and hopefully your exercise routine isn’t melting down from heat stress. Here are the keys to training in the heat and avoiding heat related illnesses.
Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat cramps are all dangerous and common ailments that develop this time of year as we all look to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. Staying active in the summer is usually easier than having to brave the elements in cold temperatures of winter. But the hot weather can put extra stress on your body when exercising in the warmth of the summer sun.
Heat, humidity and body temperature are the three things to think about as you get active in the higher temps. It’s no surprise that hydration is your best friend in dealing with all three.
Sweat is basically your own personal air conditioning system. As the body heats up, sweat starts to form and should lead to your core temperature slowly coming back down. This is where hydration comes into play. When the body sweats you are losing fluids that need to be replaced. As the body runs low on fluids, dangerous side effects such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can develop and dehydration is where the problems begin.
Here are some basic tips to staying healthy and hydrated as the heat index rises.
- Drink like a fish! Ok, maybe not quite that much, but you definitely want to drink extra fluids. Water is your best friend but if you are sweating in the summer heat. Then, salt depletion can also become a factor which is why electrolyte-enhanced sport drinks are a key in combating dehydration. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it doesn’t matter. Remember, thirst is NOT the first sign of dehydration. Instead, hunger, fatigue, and increased heart rate will happen fast. So, frink 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise in a hot environment.
- Dress for success in the sun! Wear lightweight, light colored and loose-fitting clothing along with a hat. As much as possible, keep the material porous. Wear sunscreen on exposed areas to help avoid skin-cancer related problems down the road. This will help reflect the sun and will also keep the sweating mechanism to keep your skin temperature cool working better.
- Plan for lower temps and avoid the hottest part of the day! This may seem like an obvious statement but it somehow doesn’t register when people plan their outdoor exercise activities. If it’s going to be hot after lunch then plan to get a morning or evening workout in and avoid those hot and humid afternoons. Extreme heat will decrease your performance anyways so it’s best to get an outdoor workout in when the air temperature is high.
- Acclimate to travel temps. Many people enjoy taking their exercise routine with them as they travel (love it)! Just be cautious of the heat index when you are traveling to different climates. Someone visiting the desert southwest may think that just because they’re not sweating- things are fine. But, in reality, sweat evaporates quickly in dry climates like Phoenix, Arizona. Further, you’re most likely losing that sweat before you really even notice it was there.
- Target your coolness. For quick ways to cool off, find your cooling points like the back of your neck and the wrists. Especially if you don’t have much in the way of cooling cloths, focusing the cooler temperature in these areas will help the most.
- Know your limitations and capacity. If you’re new to physical activity, you definitely should be cautious exercising in hot weather. On the flip side, if you are fit and not new to an outdoor workout with a higher heart rate, make good use of your time. Instead of going on a long and potentially dangerous hike, opt for a HIIT workout. This way you can be in and out of danger quickly. Of course, pay attention to your heart rate and how you’re feeling- you know you best.
Heat and humidity are the two big numbers to pay attention to and when combined they give you a heat index number. The heat index is basically the temperature the human body feels. Having humidity at 90 percent on a 90 degree day will leave you feeling like it’s 122 degrees outside. While a 100 degree day with 20 percent humidity will actually just feel like a 100 degree day. As temperature and humidity rise, so does the heat index. The heat index impacts everyone. However, those who have high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, are very young or are very old pose the greatest risk during physical activity in extreme heat. Use this heat index calculator to see what you’re up against.
Bottom line- take heat advisories seriously no matter what.
Being proactive is the best way to avoid heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke but if you suspect you or someone you are in contact with is suffering from a heat related ailment. GET HELP!
What to do if you suspect heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke include general fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps and a rising body temperature. If your temperature starts climbing above 104 and the body has lost the ability to sweat then acute respiratory distress and/or loss of consciousness can occur. These are both signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke is no joke and can even lead to death if not attended to immediately. This is why it is considered a medical emergency and you should call 911 without hesitation. While waiting for paramedics to arrive move the person to shade or an air conditioned environment and remove any unnecessary clothing. Apply ice packs to the individual’s armpits, neck, groin, and back. These areas contain a large amount of blood vessels close to the skin and can help in reducing the core body temperature. You should also apply water to the body with a sponge or hose. Just be mindful that a hose could be extremely hot and the water coming out initially could also be scorching. So, point the hose away from all people and allow it to run long enough to cool down. No one wants second degree burns to go along with their heat stroke.
Stay safe and keep up that exercise routine while staying cool this summer. Cool temperatures will be here before we know it, so enjoy that sunshine safely and remember to stay hydrated and always keep an eye on that heat index.
To learn more about how the body responds to exercise and the environment, consider getting your EMAC Personal Training Certification. It’s the certification for people who just love fitness and want to know what professionals know. Check it out today!