Tips for exercising in the heat
By Kayla Hartson
Student Fitness Program Coordinator
Now that it is officially summer and the heat is here, exercising outdoors is a little more difficult than it was in March. If you don’t make it outside in the early morning or don’t wait until late at night, you likely are stuck going for a jog in temperatures of 100+ degrees.
Exercising in the heat can be dangerous because it adds stress to your body and increases your core body temperature. Your body temperature naturally rises with exercise, but in the heat it rises even more and can become dangerous.
Exercising in the heat while unprepared can lead to heat-related illnesses, which potentially can be life threatening. Luckily, this can be avoided if you prepare in advance.
What are heat-related illnesses?
Heat cramps: Muscle cramps/spasms that may occur when exercising in heat, but body temperature remains normal.
Heat exhaustion: More severe than heat cramps. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, weakness, nausea, muscle cramps, pale or clammy skin, and fast or weak pulse. May lead to heat stroke if ignored.
Heat stroke: Medical emergency, call 911. Symptoms include body temperature higher than 103 degrees; hot, dry or damp skin; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; losing consciousness.
Heat-related illnesses are very serious and should be treated immediately by moving the person to a cooler area and attempting to lower their body temperature.
The good news is that heat-related illnesses are highly preventable if you are prepared for hot temperatures. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe and smart while exercising during the summer months:
- Stay hydrated: On average, every person should drink half their body weight in ounces of water daily. As you exercise, your body sweats and you lose a lot of water. It is extremely important to drink water throughout the day and not to wait until you feel thirsty. If you go for a hike, be sure to pack enough water for the entire trip.
- Know the temperature: Look up the temperature before you go. This will help you prepare in advance so you can be sure to have enough water and wear the right clothes.
- Know your fitness level: This is extremely important. If you are new to exercise, it is probably not the best decision to hike Camelback Mountain in the middle of July. Experienced exercisers may be acclimated to exercising in the heat, so their bodies are better at regulating increased body temperature. New exercisers may enjoy taking a day trip up north to hike in cooler temperatures or exercise first thing in the morning.
- Wear sunscreen: Protect your skin. A sunburn makes it harder for your body to circulate fluid and cool down.
- Dress appropriately: Make sure to dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. It may be best to avoid dark colors because they tend to attract heat and increase body temperature.
Always be prepared. Be smart about where you choose to exercise during the summer, especially in Arizona! Heat-related illnesses are preventable if you take the proper precautions when deciding to exercise in the heat.