Tips for Exercising in the Heat

Don't let summer's high temps bring your fitness routine to a halt. Just follow these five easy steps for exercising in the heat.
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Don’t let the summertime heat and humidity ruin your exercise enthusiasm. Following these simple rules to help make outdoor workouts a success.

The Risks

Feeling the burn in hot conditions can increase your risk for injury, dehydration and heat illness. Issues can range from minor fatigue and muscle cramping to a more serious case of heat exhaustion. The worst-case scenario is a condition referred to as heat stroke, where the body loses the ability to cool itself. (This is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.) The good news is you can protect yourself by following these five rules.

Rule #1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Around-the-clock hydration is imperative for folks who exercise multiple days a week. Water is ideal for moderate activity, but consider choosing a sports drink with calories and electrolytes for more vigorous activities lasting longer than 60 minutes. The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 8 to 12 fluid ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes before exercise and 3 to 8 fluid ounces every 15 to 20 minutes for workouts less than 60 minutes. For guidelines on longer-duration workouts, visit the American College of Sports Medicine website or download the Selecting and Effectively Using Hydration for Fitness brochure.

Rule #2: Check the forecast.

Check the projected weather conditions for your workout days. Pay special attention to the ultraviolet index and slather on the sunscreen when needed. In addition to checking the temperature, one of the most-important things to pay attention to is the humidity level. The more humid the air, the more difficult exercising can be. On extremely humid days, aim to exercise early in the morning or later in the evening, times when levels will likely be lower.

Rule #3: Plan your route accordingly.

There’s nothing worse than getting stranded or lost in the heat. Map out safe and reasonable distances on very hot days, and if conditions are dangerous, consider canceling or shortening the duration of your workout accordingly. Plan ahead for water stops and restroom breaks where applicable. Use apps like My Run Keeper or Footpath to map out your course ahead of time.

Rule #4: Don't forget to recover.

It’s vital to end steamy outdoor workouts with proper fuel and fluids. By doing so your muscles and energy stores can prepare for your next outing. Weight loss from sweat needs to be replenished at a rate of 20 to 24 fluid ounces for every pound lost, and make sure to take in some recovery foods to help tired muscles.

Rule #5: Be sure to cross-train.

Workouts should be something you enjoy — indoors or outdoors. There's no need to be handcuffed to one type of activity in the summer months. Consider kayaking, standup paddleboarding or beach yoga. Changing your workouts with the seasons will help you stay engaged too.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of  Dana White Nutrition, Inc. , which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

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