Enjoy outdoor exercise this summer, but protect yourself from overheating
Overheating is a serious risk when it comes to exercise—especially in a climate like Orlando’s. It’s not about being a wimp—heat stroke can be fatal. Remember: Any activity can be strenuous when you add the heat factor, so bear in mind that you may need to change your exercise routine when the heat and humidity index begin to rise. But you can prepare to exercise safely outdoors this summer if you take some common sense steps.
Here are 4 tips to help you prevent overheating during exercise:
- Consume plenty of fluids
You can quickly overheat from dehydration, as your body loses fluid faster while you exercise. That means you should drink plenty of water before you even think about exercising—and way before you even feel thirsty. But water’s not the only way to keep up your fluid intake. During the summer months, add lots of water-dense fruits and vegetables to your diet. Those that contain 90% or more water content include broccoli, celery, cucumber, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon—and that’s just for starters! You also should avoid the other extreme—over-hydration—by overwhelming your body with lots of water all at once. It’s best to sip water or other fluids steadily before, during, and after you exercise. And keep a water bottle with you when you’re out there doing your workout.
- Avoid the hottest times of day
Plan your exercise schedule so that you avoid the hottest part of the day. If you usually take a mid-day run, either switch on those sweltering days to running indoors on a treadmill (ideally in the AC, or at least a cool fan blowing directly at you) or run early in the morning or evening when the sun’s not in full force. Check the forecast for the next day so you can plan for extreme heat and humidity, and limit your exposure to the worst heat conditions. Taking a day or two off here and there, when there is an extreme heat warning, is a wise choice.
- Wear light clothing
You can prevent overheating by wearing lightweight, light-colored and moisture-wicking clothing when you work out. Darker colors absorb more sunlight, which converts to heat, and therefore increases your body temperature. Light clothing, on the other hand, reflects light. Moisture-wicking fabrics help to pull the sweat away from your body, so you can cool down faster. Natural fibers such as cotton absorb sweat, and can become heavy, as the water takes time to evaporate—too long during a long run, for example.
- Monitor yourself for signs of overheating
Watch out for the early warning signs, which include feeling thirsty, muscle cramps, heavy sweating, and tiredness. Heat exhaustion comes before heatstroke—as a kind of warning. If you’re unsure, read more about heat illness, but if you feel any of these, get yourself to a cool place, out of the sun, and remove any extra clothes to help your body cool down more quickly. Drink water or other fluids, and rest. Get yourself to a doctor if you don’t feel better within an hour.
Taking care of yourself in the extreme heat is essential. Exercise is supposed to give you energy—not endanger or deplete you. Taking these extra precautions and you can get through the hottest months of the year and still enjoy your exercise routine—safely.
This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, FL. Find out about all of our professional training programs, and visit us online for more information.