Exercising in the heat adds more stress to your body. This is not always a problem however you should be aware of how excessive heat affects your body and modify your exercise program to manage it and reduce the amount of heat you are exposing yourself to.
It is beneficial to acclimatise yourself to the increasing temperatures so that your body can get used to the climate. Be aware of the holiday season and take care if you are going to a warmer climate for holidays and enjoy outdoor activities.
We are designed to cool ourselves however if not taken gradually then we expose ourselves to greater risk of overheating.
Be mindful of the type of activity you are doing and always rehydrate. This not only applies to runners and walkers but golfers as well, they are exposed to the heat for longer periods and if not hydrating can easily become dehydrated and experience other effects of heat exhaustion.
Studies have shown that the process of heat acclimatisation can improve your exercise performance however this must be under supervision and monitoring.
Depending on your age, current health condition and fitness level it can take up to two weeks for your body to adapt to a warmer climate.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Heavy sweating.
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin.
- Fast, weak pulse.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Muscle cramps.
- Tiredness or weakness.
Risk Factors for Heat Related Injuries
- Medical Conditions, diabetes, heart disease, overweight
- Certain prescription medications that affect blood pressure or fluid retention
- Alcohol consumption
- Water consumption
- An individual’s age
- Pregnancy and Postnatal
- Poor acclimatization
- Overall Health and Fitness
- Exercise Clothing Worn
Tips for Staying Safe when Exercising in the Heat
When looking at tips for staying safe when exercising in the heat do a quick check of whether you have any of the risk factors. If you do then it is wise and sensible to mitigate this risk by taking necessary precautions.
Always check with your GP (General Practitioner) before you start an exercise program or are going to exercise in the heat. The GP will access your physical condition and also your current medication and advise you accordingly. You can also discuss what precautions you need to take.
Avoid alcohol the night before you exercise because alcohol can cause dehydration. Always rehydrate before you go to bed or in the morning after consuming alcohol.
Dehydration is a key factor when exercising in the heat. You can help your body sweat and cool down by staying well-hydrated with water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink fluids, take a water bottle with you and drink as you are exercising. This is important if you are going out for. longer periods. (Cyclists, Golfers, Long Distance Runners) If you plan to exercise intensely, consider a sports drink as well as water. Sports drinks can replace the sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Avoid drinks with excessive sugar and alcoholic drinks because they can actually promote fluid loss.
The Individuals Age
Age affects your ability to respond to excessive heat, the older we are the more we need to take into consideration how the heat is going to affect up. Prevention is one of the strategies, like the time of day you are going to exercise, try to stay out of the heat during the day.
Pregnancy and PostNatal
This risk factor would be best discussed this with your Medical Practitioner, it is an individual recommendation and decision. Your discussion with your Medical Practitioner would take into consideration your current pregnancy and health history, your past and current fitness level and any other factors that may affect your own health and also your pregnancy. You may be advised to consider walking, swimming or other sports with less impact and produce less stress on your body. There are studies to say that pregnant women should not elevate their core temperature. An article in Runnersworld.com cites a A study in British Journal of Sports Medicine which suggests that running in the heat while pregnant is not a risk factor. I would strongly recommend this is a decision to be made with your Medical Practitioner and/or Obstetrician.
Postnatal would also be a decision to be made with your Medical Practitioner, Obstetrician and/or Physiotherapist. This would also depend on your pre natal fitness, your pregnancy, birth experience and post natal recovery and support network. Discuss this as soon as you want after the birth of your baby.
There are groups of post natal ladies who walk/run in pram groups. If you were to join one of these groups, encourage your group to walk in the cooler times of the day.
If you’re used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. It can take at least one to two weeks to adapt to the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over time, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. Be aware of the holiday period and holidaying in the warmer climates.
Overall Health and Fitness
Take into consideration your overall health and fitness including your age and health conditions. (as above). If you’re unfit or new to exercise, be extra cautious when working out in the heat. Your body may have a lower tolerance to the heat. Reduce your exercise intensity and take frequent breaks and drink water.
Exercise Clothing worn
Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler. Wear clothes made of wicking material that absorb heat away from the skin. Avoid dark colours that can absorb heat. If possible, wear a light-coloured, wide-brimmed hat.
Check the Temperature
Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat alerts. Know what the temperature is expected to be for the duration of your planned outdoor activity. Be sensible avoid going out in the heat of the day. If you are unable to go early morning or late afternoon consider joining a gym to enable you to exercise in the cool.
A sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself and increases the risk of skin cancer. Wear a good protective sunscreen for added protection.
Most importantly be sensible and if you are exercising outdoors pay attention to the temperature. If you start to experience any heat related symptoms stop exercising immediately and find a cool place to sit. Rehydrate with water or sports drinks and when you can apply wet towels or icepacks to your neck, forehead and underarms. Notify someone and if you don’t feel any better in about 20 minutes seek medical attention.
Exercise if fun and is meant to be enjoyable, sometimes it is necessary to take precautions to ensure our safety particularly in the Summer months.
The information on this website is for general knowledge only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have concerns about your health or fitness level contact the appropriate Medical Practitioner, Physiotherapist or Fitness Professional.
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