Exercising is a significant part of staying healthy and, for many, is an integral part of their daily routine. With summer in full effect, it’s important that you take the time to reeducate yourself about the dangers of working out in high-intensity heat. Lack of preparation can lead to severe dehydration, heat stroke or, even worse, health risks—but if you understand the potential risks and take precautions to minimize them, you can keep up with your typical exercise routine and remain active even during the summer heat.
WHAT HEAT DOES TO YOUR BODY
Exercising over an extended period of time in high temperatures places more stress on your heart, because the heat requires more blood and oxygen to reach the exercising muscles. In the summer, your internal temperature and heart rate can spike much more rapidly than in cooler temperatures, so it’s especially important that you self-monitor to avoid overheating. In cases of extreme heat, you should either slow the pace of your workout or simply wait for the temperature outside to decrease.
BE AWARE OF THE SIGNS OF DANGER
Staying active in the summer heat means paying attention to symptoms of potential complications, including:
- Muscle cramps
- Weakness and fatigue
- Low blood pressure
- Blurry vision
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should stop exercising, lower your body temperature, drink plenty of water, and be patient while your body recovers. Pushing yourself can lead to the more serious issues, such as:
Fainting: High temperatures can cause lightheadedness and fainting, often from stopping abruptly after exercising for a long period of time.
Heat exhaustion: When your internal body temperature reaches dangerous levels, you risk heat exhaustion, which can cause nausea, headaches, feelings of weakness, and even heat stroke.
Heatstroke: A life-threatening condition that occurs when your body temperature reaches 104°F or higher. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of heatstroke, seek medical help immediately.
BEST PRACTICES TO EXERCISE SAFELY IN THE HEAT
Even though exercising in the summer comes with a special set of concerns, taking these small steps can help you avoid complications:
Be your own meteorologist: Check the forecast before you go outside to exercise to make sure conditions are okay, and that no heat advisories are in effect.
Ease yourself into it: If you don’t typically exercise outside in the heat, start slow. Take it easy at first, and let your body adjust to the new climate.
Water is critical: Dehydration is the number one cause of heat-related illnesses, so drink water even if you aren’t thirsty. Hydration helps you avoid headaches and dizziness.
Avoid exercise during the day: If you can, try to limit your activities to the mornings and later in the day. If conditions exceed more than 80°F with 80% humidity, you should wait for it to cool off.