Beat the Heat - 5 Tips for Staying Active in Hot Weather

While some enjoy less physical pursuits, such as reading a book or lounging poolside, “summer fun” for many people includes playing sports, hiking, biking, and exercising outdoors. However, exercising or being physically active in hot weather can put stress your body that, if ignored, could result in heat-related illnesses such as cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. Keep your family safe while being active during those hot summer days by following these tips:

Stay Hydrated

Staying properly hydrated is critical to avoiding heat-related illnesses. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising to help your body sweat and cool down. If you’re planning on doing strenuous activity, such as playing sports or going for a long run, the Mayo Clinic suggests hydrating with a sports drink instead of plain water, as it can replace sodium and other electrolytes lost through heavy sweating. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also suggests hydrating your body with water-rich foods, such as watermelon and grapefruit.

Wear Proper Clothing

The right clothing can make your time exercising outdoors in the heat safer and more comfortable. Choose light, moisture-wicking clothes that won’t trap heat or hold in sweat. Also be aware that protective gear, including helmets and padding, trap heat and raise your core body temperature. If you have to wear gear during hot days, make sure to take breaks in order to let your body cool down.

Staying active outdoors also means outfitting yourself with the right sun-protection accessories, such as a hat, sunglasses, and of course — sweat-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Go Easy and Know When to Quit

Don’t feel bad if you can’t perform in the heat — even the fittest athletes have to steadily acclimate to exercising in hot weather conditions. It’s important to start exercising slow, take breaks often, and understand that you may not be able to work out at the same intensity level in the heat as you would in an air-conditioned gym. It’s also critical to know your own individual physical limits, listen to your body, and know when to quit. If you’re not feeling well, don’t push through in order to finish a workout or game.

Adapt Your Exercise Routines for Warmer Weather

If the heat is making your lunch hour jog impossible, or if the once open-stretches of road you bike daily now seem more like sun-scorched deserts, it’s time to adapt your exercise routine for the remainder of the summer. Temperatures, as well as humidity and air pollution levels, peak during the afternoon. Swap those lunch-time walks or jogs for an exercise session in the morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler and humidity levels are more bearable. Also, consider changing up your exercise route in favor of a road or trail with lots of shade that will keep you out of the sun. Too hot to bike or run? Go swimming instead! If you don’t have a pool, ask a friendly neighbor with one for permission to use theirs on occasion, or research public pools in your area.

Recognize the Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion

On average, there are 113 heat-related deaths per year, according to the National Weather Service, primarily affecting people 50 years old and older and children under the age of nine. Heatstroke is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can cause brain damage, organ failure, or even death. It’s critical to recognize the warning signs of heat exhaustion in yourself and family members in order to provide treatment and, in severe cases, seek medical attention in a timely manner. Heat exhaustion occurs when body temperatures rise upwards of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headache, and weakness. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to lower your body temperature as soon as possible, as untreated heat exhaustion could lead to heatstroke. Stop exercising, drink lots of fluids, and place cool towels or ice packs on quick-cooling spots such as your forehead, neck, and underarms. The Mayo Clinic advises that if symptoms do not improve after 30 minutes, seek medical treatment.