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Use Caution When Exercising in the Heat

Jun 19th 2013 at 10:33 PM

It is the dog days of summer, and here in North Carolina it is Hot and Steamy. I'm talking Tarzan jungle hot.  It is hot enough that I am making several adjustments to my exercise routine. I normally run outside every day, but this is the time of the year when I least appreciate it. Consequently I am using the elliptical trainer a few days a week, and the other days I head out for a real good sweat.

I’m one of those people who sweat profusely. By the time I am done my body and my gym clothes are soaked. This means I am draining some serious fluids, which is not a problem as long as I adequately replace them, and I monitor any abnormal physical symptoms.

Heat related illnesses are usually due to people ignoring the warning symptoms. They include weakness, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps and nausea. This means you need to be aware of your mental state. What appears to be fatigue can progress to unconsciousness.

So I have been doing my research and have come up with a list of valuable suggestions to make certain you summer outdoor workouts are healthy and rewarding:


Stay Hydrated


Even in cooler temperatures, there is a tendency not to adequately replace expended body fluids. In the summer it is an absolute necessity. It is important to drink water or sports beverages before and after your workout. If you are engaging in extended outdoor exercise (running, walking, bicycling), replace fluids periodically. For runners, consider a hydration pack. If you do not maintain your fluid levels you risk circulatory failure.


If you are exercising for an hour or less, water is sufficient. Longer than an hour and you need to replace carbohydrates. Warmer weather metabolizes these substances faster. Consider one of the popular sports drinks that contain carbs.


Time of Day


When they are predicting some scourging weather, schedule your workout early in the morning or later in the evening. Avoid the mid-day heat and humidity. Workout indoors if that is the only time you have to exercise




Be aware of the relative humidity. The body responds to overheating by the evaporation of moisture through perspiration. When the humidity is high, the air is less capable of evaporating excess moisture. Consequently your natural cooling mechanism is compromised. Monitor your vitals.  If you start to feel light headed, or you feel completely drain, immediately stop, find a place to cool off and once again replace those vital fluids.


Cool Clothing


No, I am not talking about the latest fashions. When exercising in heat you do not want clothing that will retain heat. That includes cotton apparel. Go for synthetic breathable fabrics that release moisture from your body and allow efficient airflow. Hats are good for preventing the sun from heating up the blood vessels lining your scalp. But remove the hat occasionally to let the heat escape.

Problems of Pollution

Due to some misguided political policies and our desire to drive gas-guzzling vehicles, the air quality in urban environments in the summer often sucks. During days when there are orange, red or even purple alerts it is best to limit your outdoor activities. And air pollution is not limited to just cities. For example, the air quality in the mountains of North Carolina during the summer can be equivalent to the air in Los Angeles. The trees are actually dying in the high altitudes. Furthermore, the air quality in a number of our national parks and beaches can be potentially hazardous during the summer months. Excessive physical exertion in areas of poor air quality can be detrimental to your health.

The summer offers an incredible opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature while you exercise. A walk or run on a tree-lined trail or sandy beach surely beats the congestion of a health club. But when it heats up outside use common sense and caution.  And if those dog days of summer start barking consider heading indoors.

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