Take precautions exercising in summer heat


Take precautions exercising in summer heat

When the outdoor temperatures and humidity rise, be extra careful when exercising outdoors.  Excessive heat and humidity create a dual threat taking a toll on our body’s ability to cool off.  Normally when we sweat, the sweat evaporates off our skin keeping our body temperature from rising. But when humidity permeates, our sweat fails to evaporate causing our core temperature to rise which can lead to risky, life-threatening heat-related conditions of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

To prevent any heat-related illnesses from occurring, special precautions need to be taken when exercising in hot weather.  The tips listed are based on research done with competitive athletes and people who’ve participated in military training operations.   The tips address precautions to take before and during exercise. Doing these strategies can blunt the rate of heat gain and help you to work out safely in hot weather

Before exercise

·      Drink cool or icy beverages to cool yourself internally. 

·      Cold beverages tend to be more palatable causing you to drink more to which helps with replacing sweat losses.

·      Drinking an icy drink such as a slurry has more of a cooling effect than cold water alone according to a review paper in BMC Medicine in 2012.

·      Apply icy cold towels to your face, arms, neck, thighs, and other body parts for 5 to 20 minutes before exercising.  A 2011 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise had runners apply icy towels to their head and neck before running and for 5 minutes when taking a break and found it to be effective in keeping them cool.

·      Immerse hands and forearms in cool or cold water to also precool externally. 

·      Carry a bottle of cold water in each hand while exercising outdoors.

During exercise

·      Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing providing good ventilation.  Wear light colors as dark colors absorb more heat.  Clothing made of “wickable” fabric moves sweat away from your skin so moisture can evaporate quickly.

·      Wear a lightweight, light-colored hat or cap with a broad brim when outdoors.  This will shield you from radiating heat and protect you from skin-damaging effects of the sun. 

·      Dampen the hat with water or ice before wearing or pour cold water over the hat while exercising.

·      Even though light-colored clothing can keep you cooler than heavier, dark clothing, it may not protect you as well from the sun.  If you work out a lot outside make an investment in specially made garments that carry ultraviolet protection factor to protect your skin

·      If you wear a helmet when bicycling, choose a light-colored one that has air vents and reflective material on top to keep you cooler.

Special precautions 

·      Start out slowly if you are not used to exercising in hot, humid weather, gradually increasing the length of the workouts.

·      Exercise during the coolest part of the day if possible and try to work out in the shade taking frequent breaks to cool down.

·      Check the heat index on particularly hot and humid days.  Consider working out indoors in air-conditioning or choose to go swimming instead.

·      Keep adequately hydrated with cool water and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  Your urine should be pale in color.

·      Children, older people and those who are overweight should be extra careful as they are less heat tolerant and more susceptible to heat-related illness

·      Recognize early warning signs of heat-related illness of muscle cramping, fatigue, nausea, headache, and heavy sweating. 

·      More serious signs include dry, red skin, confusion, and fainting which could indicate heat stroke and is a medical emergency.