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Exercising in Summer Heat

Exercising in Summer Heat

During the long, cold days of winter, we dream of exercising during summer: A bike ride along the river, football in the park, a hike in the mountains, or just a day in the garden. But when summer actually arrives, you need to be prepared. If you aren’t careful, exercising in the heat can be risky.

Exercising in the heat doesn’t always mean running 42 km because even if you’re not planning to run a marathon, you want to be careful of the increase in humidity and heat before doing a summer workout.

Our body should be warmer than the atmosphere. When this begins to change, our muscles regulate heat by sweating, which allows the body to cool itself. But when the body sweats, it loses fluids.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are dangerous side effects of overdoing summer activities. These happen when the body can no longer handle the pace, the humidity, the heat or the loss of the fluids.

You sweat in order for your body to cool off. When you constantly keep yourself hydrated, the body will cool itself off, but when you become dehydrated, the problem starts; the core temperature of your body begins to rise and you put your central nervous system and your internal organs at danger.

Does working out in the heat enhance the effectiveness of your workout routine?
People believe that sweating equals calories burned, which is not true. Everybody is different and sweats differently, and how much or how little you sweat isn’t an indicator to the number of the calories you actually burn.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
Heat exhaustion includes signs of weakness, general fatigue, nausea, dizziness, an increase in body temperature and muscle cramps. Acute respiratory distress, inability to sweat and loss of consciousness can be signs of heat stroke, which is a much more cruel case and can lead to death.
This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your summer workout. Follow these guidelines to exercise smart in the heat:

1.Adjust to the Temperature Changes
When the weather gets warm, you need to adapt to the temperature change by exposing yourself regularly.
It can take up to 14 days to adjust to temperature changes. Usually when athletes are preparing for an event that will happen in the heat of the day, coaches advise them to be active in the heat ahead of time. They have to get out in the middle of the day when it’s hot and exercise in order to acclimate to the conditions for the event.

2.Stay hydrated
Hydration is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to exercising during summer.
If your urine has the color of lemonade, then you are well hydrated. If the color is darker then you might be dehydrated.
To maintain good hydration for a moderate summer workout, it is recommended to drink 0.5 L of water 2 hours before exercise, at least 0.25 L of water before getting out in the heat, and then a gulp every 15-20 minutes during exercise.
In order to stay better hydrated, drink fluids with food throughout the day.

3.Slow Down
When the temperature reaches above 30 °C, don’t look forward to go out and set a record.
If the temperature gets hotter than it used to, cut the exposure back or cut the pace back, don’t try to do the same pace you did before.
Be cautious about trying to keep up with your friends who are more fit or have a higher tolerance for heat than you have.

4.Exercise Late or Early
It is better to get out before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m. to work out during summer. This will give you energy and length to your day. Certainly, humidity and heat will slow you down.
During worst part of summer, it is better to exercise in the gym.

5.Put on Light and Breathable Clothes
Light fabrics that wick the sweat away are the best when exercising in the heat. Clothes should also be light-colored, like white so they reflect the sun.
Usually, people overdress by covering up the working muscles in the legs, which generates a lot of heat.
Use a well-ventilated hat with a brim and some lightweight sunglasses to protect your face and to prevent headaches. It is also important to put on sunscreen when you exercise outdoors.

6. Asses the Day Before
Assessing how you feel right before going out to exercise in the heat is not enough. It’s very important to those who exercise regularly to take into consideration the fluid intake, the physical activity, and the diet of the previous day; you could be fatigued or dehydrated even prior to exercising, which could get worse quicker on a hot day.

7.Consult Your Pharmacist or Doctor
A lot of medications both over-the-counter and prescription such as appetite suppressants, anti hypertensive, antihistamines and antidepressants can increase the effects of heat-related illnesses by accelerating dehydration and decreasing the body’s ability to recognize danger.
Even diuretics like alcohol and caffeine, when you have them before exercising in the heat, can cause dehydration.

8.Use your Common Sense
Never start doing something brand new if the weather is really hot, even if it’s just for half an hour.
When you don’t know what you are expecting or how your body will react to the activity, it’s best to save it for a cooler, more forgiving day.
Common sense is the most important thing when dealing with heat and exercise. If you’re not feeling well, you need to get inside to get your core temperature down. Even if you are in an event, it’s just not worth it. You want to live to run another day.

Christelle Bedrossian
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian