Written by: Ericca Whitley, Marketing Manager
With temperatures rising, staying cool while you exercise outdoors can be a challenge. Your body has to work extra hard to keep itself cool and avoid heat related health conditions. Your body has its own air-conditioning technique. It’s called sweating. When you exercise in hot or high humidity, your body’s AC unit is unable to rid itself of excess heat. If you chose to continue your fitness routine outside, here are some tips to help your body stay cool.
Talk to your doctor – If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it is important to seek approval from your doctor on any new exercise routine. Starting a workout, especially in high heat, can have consequences with your condition. Talk with your doctor about what those consequences can be so you are prepared.
Time of day – Avoid the hours around the hottest part of the day, which is between 12pm and 5pm. Choose your workout times carefully. It’s always wise to work out early in the morning, even at 4am. The temperature is at its lowest and traffic is at its lightest. So not only are you working in ideal temps but you’re not competing with air pollution from the morning commuters. Not to mention it’s safer when there is less traffic. Late evening after the temperature breaks is also an ideal time.
Seek shaded paths – Find areas and paths that are out of direct sun. Parks and tree-lined streets are a good location. If you’re running, choose the side of the street that the buildings and/or houses are blocking the sun. If you can’t avoid direct sun, seek shaded areas for your resting breaks.
Wear the appropriate clothing – Choose light weight and light colored clothing. Light colors help reflect heat. Loose, absorbent clothing helps the body breath and release built up heat. Avoid Spandex and cotton material. They just hold moisture and stick to your skin, not allowing sweat and heat to escape.
Don’t forget sunscreen – Sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself. An SPF 30 active sunscreen product is best. Apply at least 20 minutes before you head out so your body has time to absorb it and provide the best protection. Reapply every 2 hours unless you sweat a lot, then reapply every hour. Never can be too safe.
Know your body – It takes a body 7-10 days to adapt to changing temperatures. Start off slow and with a low intensity workout, especially if you’re an inactive person just starting out. Work your way up to a stronger intensity but know your limits and watch your heart rate. Your heart rate should not exceed 60-70% max when working in high temperatures and/or high humidity.
Stay hydrated – Drinking lots of water alone won’t prevent heat exhaustion but it does help. Drink water even when not working out. Your body will pull from what already exists in your body before it will pull water that you just drank. It’s always smart to drink lots of water the day before any major outdoor activity. On day of, drink a couple room temperature cups of water before and after your workout, and every 20 minutes in between. If you’re participating in a high intensity activity drink sports drinks in addition to water. Sports drinks will help replenish sodium, chloride and potassium your body loses as it sweats.
Have a back up plan – If temperatures exceed 80° degrees, change your location from outdoor to indoor. Hit the gym where you can enjoy air conditioning while you get your fitness on. Or choose a water activity. Swimming is a great exercise in hot weather because the water will help keep your body cool.
Now these tips will help keep your body cooler in the hot sun but make sure you can recognize when enough is enough and your body is telling you something. Heat illness can happen to the best of athletes. It is important to know the symptoms of something serious. Muscle cramps, headaches, weakness, vomiting, nausea, vision problems, confusion are all signs of your body overheating.
If you experience any of these, stop exercising immediately and seek a shaded area or indoors. Get cool fast with cool wet clothes against the back of your neck, sips of water or cool shower. If you’re not feeling better within 20 minutes seek immediate medical help. Cedar Park Emergency Center is no stranger to heat related illnesses. We open 24/7, 365 days a year.