Expert Tips for Exercising in Hot Weather
With the summer months upon us, whether you’re running, playing a pick-up game of basketball or going for a power walk, make sure you take care of your body when the temperature rises to avoid heat illness.
Working out in hot weather puts extra stress on the body because both exercise and the air temperature increase your core body temperature. If the humidity is also high, your body faces additional stress because sweat will not readily evaporate from your skin. This can push your body temperature even higher.
Not staying properly hydrated can compound the problem. In addition to circulating the blood throughout the body to cool itself, your body also uses fluids – sweat – to cool itself. Be sure to drink extra fluids before, during and after exercising.
Heat-related illnesses occur along a spectrum, starting out mild but worsening if left untreated. Heat illnesses include:
- Heat rash – a skin irritation caused by heat
- Heat cramps – painful muscle contractions that cause the affected muscles to feel firm to the touch
- Heat syncope – a feeling of lightheadedness or fainting caused by high temperatures, often occurring after standing for a long period of time, or standing quickly after sitting for a long period of time
- Heat exhaustion – a medical condition characterized by sweaty, clammy skin, weakness, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue and irritability
- Heat stroke – a medical emergency characterized by hot, dry skin, temperature over 105, rapid pulse, unconsciousness, disorientation, headache, fatigue and irritability
If you develop any of these symptoms, you must lower your body temperature and get hydrated. Stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. If possible, have someone stay with you to monitor your condition. If your symptoms do not improve within 30 minutes, seek medical attention immediately. By taking some basic precautions, your exercise routine doesn’t have to be sidelined when the heat is on.
Here are some tips on how to avoid heat-related illnesses:
- Know your fitness level.
- Drink plenty of fluids – water and sports drinks are your best choices, avoid sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages, avoid caffeine, increase fluid intake before, during and after exercise, take frequent water breaks and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water.
- Watch the temperature and adjust your activity accordingly.
- Get acclimated – if you’re used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. Gradually increase the length and intensity of your outdoor exercise.
- Dress appropriately – lightweight, loose-fitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler.
Source: National Athletic Training Association position statement from September 2015 – Exertional Heat Illness, consensus statements for Heat Illnesses Guidelines