Spring and summer offer extras hours of daylight – and the opportunity to spend even more time enjoying outdoor activities under the sun. For many people, this means the opportunity for more physical activities and playing sports. But sports and other outdoor activities also pose potential dangers – particularly if exercising in hot conditions. Here are the dos and don’ts of working out in the heat.
What you should do when exercising in the heat
Drink plenty of fluids
It’s extremely important to stay hydrated. If you’re thirsty, then you are already dehydrated, so remember to drink before you feel a need to. Then also consume fluids regularly throughout the day (though it’s best to stick to non-caffeinated beverages, preferably water). As a rule, plan to drink 15 to 20 minutes before beginning your workout, and then every 15 minutes throughout the exercise.
The heat can decrease your appetite, but it’s important to eat normally. Try to eat small meals five to six times per day to keep your energy up.
Wear light, loose fitting clothes that can breathe
Cotton is always a good choice. If your outdoor activity produces a lot of perspiration, consider clothing that is designed to wick the sweat away.
Slather on the sunscreen
Even if you exercise early in the morning or late in the evening, if the sun can reach you, then you can get burned. Not only is a sunburn bad on the skin and potentially dangerous but it also hinders your body’s ability to stay cool.
Stay in your safety zone
Use common sense and don’t attempt strenuous activities that your body is not accustomed to. Stick to exercises that you are very familiar and comfortable with.
Don’t go if it’s too hot
Check the weather forecast. It’s best not to participate in intense outdoor exercise sessions when the temperature and/or heat index registers in the dangerous zone.
What not to do when exercising in the heat
Forget the old “no pain, no gain” motto
Ignoring your body’s signals could be dangerous. Heat-related illnesses come with warning signs, so be sure that you learn how to recognize them, and know what actions to take.
Don’t try to lose weight by sweating
Excessive perspiration is not the key to permanent weight loss. Any decrease in the scale would simply be a result of water loss, not fat reduction. Too, don’t forget that sweat is your body’s way of trying to cool itself, and those fluids need to be replenished quickly.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquid when swimming
Just because your body is surrounded by water does not mean that you are well-hydrated. Just as with any land exercises, you need to regularly replenish lost fluids — even when swimming laps in the pool or when participating in water sports.
Take a siesta (or at least a rest)
Avoid physical activity during the hottest part of the day, which usually is around 10am to 3pm. If you want (or need) to be working in very hot temperatures, don’t do it until you become acclimated. Try to spend only a few minutes per day in the hot conditions for the first couple of weeks and then add time gradually each day.
Avoid extreme changes in temperature
Don’t hop from being extremely hot and sweating excessively right into an ice cold, air-conditioned environment. Try to cool your body down slightly before exposing it to the extreme temperature variation.