Saturday, July 11, 2015

Exercising in the Heat: 5 Tips to Keep You Safe When the Temps Rise

Today is the second Saturday in July, which means that my health column is running in a local newspaper. If you're here today because of it, welcome! And since some of you readers don't have access to the paper, I'm reprinting the article just for you:

We are experiencing a relatively mild summer. With the onset of July, that might change. The temperature always seems to rise at this time of year. If you’ve been exercising outside, you probably haven’t given it much thought, but if and when the temperature does change, you’ll want to be prepared. So let’s talk about exercising in the heat. There are a few things you’ll want to consider in order to stay safe. Heat can, after all, make or break your outdoor workout.

1) Stay hydrated. 
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), 75% of all muscle tissue is water. It’s an essential ingredient in the recipe of our existence and we cannot function without it. According to a 2004 report from the Food and Nutrition Board, women must consume 2.7 liters and men must consume 3.7 liters each day. Of course, active people need more—especially if they are exercising in the heat.

ACE explains that the human body can lose more than a quart of water during 60 minutes of exercise. When the body doesn’t have enough water to create the sweat necessary to cool itself, it gets dehydrated. This leads to poor performance—among other dangerous side effects, like heat stroke. Long story short, you need to hydrate before, during and after your workout. So fill up those water bottles, then reach for another bottle—one that’s filled with sunscreen.

2) Protect yourself from the sun. 
Skin cancer is a very real thing, so sunscreen is an absolute must. Choose one that provides both UVA and UVB protection with an SPF that’s relatively high. You’ll also want a formula that resists water and sweat—when it’s hot out, you’ll encounter both. And remember, clouds don’t block harmful rays, so apply sunscreen even when it is overcast.

Additionally, you’ll want to wear sunglasses when you exercise outside. This might sound silly, but the eyes are extremely susceptible to UV overexposure and can become sunburned. According to The Vision Council, this can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, premature aging and even cancer. So protect yourself by choosing the right eyewear for your workouts. You might, for example, look for polarized lenses and frames that wrap around your face.

Already have a pair with dark lenses? That doesn’t always indicate accurate sun protection. Simply wearing a hat to shade your eyes doesn’t get the job done, either.

3) Wear breathable gear. 
Hats can, however, be a wonderful choice when you’re exercising in the heat. They might not protect your eyes, but they’ll shade your face. Pick one that’s lightweight and made of breathable materials so heat and sweat can travel up and off the top of your head.

Look for lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing, too. When you sweat, it needs to be removed from your body. This is your body’s way of cooling itself. Cotton absorbs sweat and then holds on to it, making your outfit a soggy, sloppy mess. Moisture-wicking materials take the sweat off your body and help it evaporate quickly, which leaves you much cooler and ultimately more comfortable.

4) Choose the right time of day. 
Speaking of comfort, exercising at the right time of day can make a big difference. Keep an eye on hourly weather reports to find windows of opportunity. At this time of year, afternoons can be quite hot, so working out in the morning or evening might be your best bet. One thing to remember: These low-heat times are prime-time for UV rays. The sun might not be as hot, but its rays can be just as damaging.

5) Go inside. 
Ultimately, if you can’t find a decent window of opportunity, or if you really just don’t feel comfortable in the heat, just take your workout inside. The risks far outweigh the disappointment in having to come inside on a beautiful day. Whether you choose to stay at home or hit the gym, successful completion of any workout (wherever that workout takes place) is a win no matter what.

Question: How do you beat the heat when you exercise outdoors?

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