Exercise is important for a healthy body, but working out in the heat can be downright dangerous if you don’t take adequate precautions. Here are some important tips for exercising in the heat:
Tips for exercising in the heat
When it’s hot, schedule your exercise
If possible, schedule your exercise during the cooler morning and evening hours. If you’re visiting Nashville, you may not be accustomed to our temperatures and humidity, so you should definitely take it easy the first few days. Even professional athletes adjust their routines during the first few days in a new climate!
Take regular breaks when exercising in the heat
This is especially important for youngsters who aren’t always aware that they need breaks for rest and water. Schedule a minimum of 5 minutes for every hour of exercise to get out of the heat and drink some extra water. Children, older people, and those who are less fit will need more rest — maybe 10 minutes.
Humidity makes cooling from exercise harder, so lengthen your break times accordingly if you’re exercising in high humidity.
Drink enough water
Before beginning any outdoor activity in the heat, drink a big glass of water.
Competitive athletes should tank up with two big glasses of fluids at least two hours before any outdoor event. Plain water is best. Do your best to sip a few ounces of water every 15 minutes while you’re exercising in the heat. Make sure kids drink plenty of water since they don’t realize how important it is to stay hydrated.
If you’re going to be working in the heat for more than two hours, you should consider an electrolyte replacement drink. Gatorade or similar sports drinks are the easiest solution, but they’re not the best choice. Commercial sports drinks are typically loaded with chemical dyes, preservatives, and artificial flavors. So while these commercial electrolyte replacement drinks will suffice if you have no other options, they should not be your first choice.
Here’s a homemade electrolyte drink recipe:
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- squeezed juice of 1 lemon or lime
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Shake it up and drink cold if possible.
Learn the signs of heat illness
Heat illness can quickly lead to a medical emergency, so it is essential to take action at the first warning. Heat-induced illnesses include muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Here are the common warning signs:
- Muscle cramps frequently occur in the legs or abdomen when exercising in the heat. Heat-induced muscle cramps are caused by mineral depletion from excessive sweating. Replenish your electrolytes immediately, and stretch gently.
- Heat exhaustion is an early stage of heat stroke. You feel excessively tired, weak, and nauseated. You may be dizzy, or even pass out briefly. Your skin is cool and clammy, and may appear either flushed or pale. If you’re showing signs of heat exhaustion, sit or lie down in a shady location and drink a cool drink. Try anything to cool down: Loosen or take off extra clothes, sponge with cold water, or get near a fan. If you don’t feel better after a short while, call for medical care immediately.
- Heat stroke is a very dangerous condition. The body stops sweating and the internal temperature climbs to high levels. The skin will be quite dry and hot. The victim may become confused, agitated and have blurry or double vision. Have the person lie down, and seek medical help at once! While you wait for help to arrive, try to cool the victim down using the techniques for heat exhaustion above.
Dress for the heat if you can
White clothing reflects more sun than dark colors, so if you are exercising in the heat, wear light colors whenever possible.
Light, breathable fabrics are preferable to tight clothes (even moisture-wicking ones).
Football players with thick pads and tight-fitting uniforms will be at higher risk for heat problems than runners in shorts and tank tops. Trainers, coaches, and athletes all need to adjust fluid requirements and resting times with these factors in mind on hot days. Humidity makes cooling from exercise harder, so lengthen your break times accordingly if you’re exercising in high humidity.
If you’re a spectator sitting in the bleachers on a hot day, wear loose clothing made of cottons and other breathable fabric. Don’t forget the sunscreen, and wear a sun hat if you can.