As temperatures climb, it’s important to take extra precautions to avoid heat-related disease when exercising outdoors. Under normal circumstances, exercise increases your body’s core temperature. But add in warm weather and it can quickly rise to dangerous levels.
A good rule of thumb to follow is if it’s warmer than 80 degrees and higher than 80% humidity, it’s best to lower your workout intensity significantly or take it indoors. That’s because the warmer temperature combined with a higher humidity makes it difficult for sweat to evaporate and cool your body.
But just because it’s hot outside it doesn’t mean you need to throw your fitness goals out the window. Here are a few tips to stay safe while exercising in the summer heat:
- Avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day. Aim to do your workout in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t out. It’s also a good idea to choose shaded paths when possible.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing to help sweat evaporate faster and keep you cooler. Include a hat with a brim to keep the sun off your face.
- Stay hydrated by drinking 8-12 ounces of water for every 20-30 minutes of exercise. Consider using a sports drink, such as Gatorade, if you’re exercising for 60 minutes or longer. These drinks help you stay hydrated while also replacing electrolytes.
- Listen to your body and take breaks as needed. In warmer weather, this often means lowering the intensity of your workout. For example, instead of trying to run a certain pace, leave your watch at home and run by feel.
- Remember to apply sunscreen to avoid a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every two hours.
- Move your workout indoors if it’s just too hot. Consider going to the gym or hitting the pool. Or, consider it your rest day for the week!
If you begin experiencing signs of heat illness, such as cramping, elevated heart rate, headache, vomiting, or cold, clammy skin, stop the exercise and move to a shaded area. Drink fluids as tolerated and splash water on yourself and place a wet towel on your skin. If you continue to feel sick, seek medical attention.
To learn more about exercising in the summer heat, contact a primary care provider or sports medicine physician. To find a provider near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.