Exercising in the heat
Stay safe when exercising in the heat by drinking enough fluids, wearing proper clothing and timing your workout to avoid extreme heat.
Exercising in the heat puts extra stress on your body. The exercise itself, together with the air temperature and humidity, can increase your core body temperature.
To help cool itself, your body then sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate.
Under normal conditions your skin, blood vessels and perspiration levels adjust to the heat. But these natural cooling systems may fail if you’re exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long, you sweat heavily and you don’t drink enough fluids.
So, here’s a few tips to keep in mind…
Sip an ice-cold drink about 15-20 minutes before exercising. The cooling effect has been shown to improve performance and encourage effective hydration. Taking a bottle of water with you and sipping every 10 minutes or so will help you stay safe when exercising in the heat.
It’s a good idea to lower your skin temperature too. Use a freeze pad (or stick a towel in the freezer) and place it around your neck for a few minutes, or immerse your hands in icy water to pre-cool.
Thirst is not a sign that you are becoming de-hydrated, but rather you already are dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include cramps in your abdomen and calves, fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath.
Time of day
The beginning and end of the day are the best times of day for exercising in the heat, and that’s simply because it is less hot than the middle of the day.
The window of noon to 3:00pm is when the sun is the most exposed, which makes your exercise harder and put more stress on your heart.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, studies suggest that you should take a hot shower or warm bath with Epsom Salt after exercising. This helps the body acclimatise to hot conditions.
When choosing new exercise kit, opt for clothes that are made from the kind of hi-tech fabrics that wick away sweat. Avoid heavy cotton as it will hamper the evaporation of sweat.
The clothes you wear should be lightweight, light coloured and loose fitting to allow sweat to evaporate when exercising in the heat.
You could also spritz your clothing with some water. This will help to both cool the skin and accelerate the mechanism that triggers sweat to evaporate from the skin.
Exercising in the Heat – Summary
- Choose a time of the day when the heat isn’t at its strongest
- Reduce the intensity and/or duration of the activity
- Have adequate fluids before, during and after activity
- Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing
- Wear a cap and apply sunscreen if out in the sun