For those who prefer to walk, run or bicycle outside, January is brutal! We find ourselves longing for the warm summer days when we don’t have to put on layers, hats and gloves before our morning workouts. Not to mention it’s easier to get out of bed when you’re not going out into 27 degrees and trying to avoid icy patches on the roads and sidewalks- brrrrr! January comes and goes, we have approximately 2 weeks of gorgeous, perfect weather and then BAM, it’s June, and temperatures have been 95+ for more than a week!.
Since most of us can’t just pick up and move to San Diego to enjoy the perfect weather, let’s talk about the dangers of exercising in extreme heat and how to safely exercise outside.
Under normal circumstances our bodies are warmer than the environment, when this changes, we begin to sweat. Sweating cools the body, but can also cause dehydration as we’re losing fluids. As long as you stay hydrated, the body can cool itself, it’s when you become dehydrated that you become susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. When the body can no longer cool itself it begins holding the heat inside, causing the core temperature to rise, which can effect internal organs and the central nervous system.
Heat exhaustion can cause fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps. When a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees, they experience respiratory distress, the inability to sweat or loss of consciousness, they’re usually experiencing a heat stroke, which can lead to death.
While exercising in the heat can be dangerous, there are some steps you an take to exercise outside safely.
- Stay hydrated – most doctors agree, this is the most important factor to exercising in warmer temperatures. To maintain good hydration for a summer workout, doctors recommend drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before getting out in the heat, after you get started try to take a big drink every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. If your urine is darker than normal or you don’t urinate for periods of 4-6 hours, you’re most likely dehydrated.
- Dress appropriately – lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat are best when exercising in warmer temperatures. Clothes should also be light in color in order to reflect the sun. Sunscreen should ALWAYS be worn, in addition to a breathable hat. If you wear a helmet, try to remove it when taking breaks to let your head cool and breathe.
- Time and place – try to exercise before 7am or after 6pm, preferably before sunrise or after sunset. Chose a route that provides shade and has places to pull over and rest. Avoid routes that are isolated and make sure you have cell service in case you need help.
- Consult with your physician or pharmacist – there are medications and supplements that can cause dehydration, combining these with excessive sweating will cause an individual to dehydrate rapidly. Examples include, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, caffeine and alcohol.
- Listen to your body – your body will tell you when you’re putting it in danger. If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, stop exercising immediately, hydrate in the shade and call for help if necessary.
Following these steps can help make outdoor exercise safer in the heat, but know when to say when. When temperatures exceed 90 degrees, consider taking your workout inside. We exercise to stay healthy, don’t negate it by risking heat related illness.