How to Safely Exercise in the Heat

Summer is a great time of year to spend time outdoors, but with the dog days of summer fast approaching, exercising outdoors in the extreme heat comes with some risks. Here are some tips for safely exercising outdoors in the hot, summer months.

  1. Exercise during the cooler times of the day. Take advantage of the early morning hours.  Or if morning is not your thing, late evening hours when the sun is less intense will work, too. Catching up on your sleep on the weekends sure sounds like a great idea. But if that leaves your morning run for mid-day as a result, you may want to think again.  Get outdoors while the temperature is still cooler from the overnight lows. Or wait until the sun is starting to set and the temperatures are cooling a bit. Exercising in cooler temperatures will result in less sweat and less chance of dehydration, in turn. Sweating is your body’s way of trying to stay cool, but the result is water loss and possibly dehydration if you are not re-hydrating during the workout.
  2. Drink water during the workout. To counteract the water loss from sweat in hot weather, be sure you are consistently sipping water to replenish the supply.  In most cases, water alone will do the trick. Save the fancy electrolyte drinks for extended exercise sessions (over an hour in duration).
  3. Stick to shady areas. Avoiding direct sunlight will lessen the effects of the heat, especially in a low humidity climate. If you have no choice but to be in the direct sunlight, be sure to lather on the sweat-resistance sunscreen before your workout. While it will not keep you cooler in the midst of your workout, it will help prevent sunburn.
  4. Dress is light/loose clothing.  It goes without saying that light weight clothing made of breathable material is the best choice in the hot temperatures. This is not the time to be vain about your appearance and cover up any problem areas. Your muscles heat up with activity, so light weight, breathable material will help this heat dissipate and reduce the chance of your body’s core temperature increasing as a result. Wearing a hat will also help to keep the sun off your neck and face, which will help you feel cooler.
  5. Adjust your intensity. A hot, humid day is probably not the best time to try for that record mile time or that notoriously steep hike. Plan accordingly and pace yourself. It is also important to listen to your body. Pushing to the point of discomfort in hot weather is a good way to risk heat exhaustion, a serious medical condition.  Signs of heat exhaustion include light-headedness, dizziness, weakness, nausea and muscle cramping.  If you feel any of these symptoms, it is time to get indoors where you can reduce your core body temperature.

Be smart and play in safe in the hot summer months. In most cases, if you use common sense and follow the tips above, you can safely continue your exercise routine year round.

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