Exercise and Heat

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It’s summer, the sun is shining and it’s great to get outside and get some exercise.  Except that its way too hot and humid to be comfortable and it might not even be safe.

This is the time of year where it’s really important to listen to your body as well as the weather reports.  High heat and humidity can be a deadly combination.  Exercising raises your body temperature, high heat will also cause an increase and high humidity can prevent your body from adequately cooling.

Everyone’s heat tolerance is different. If you are someone who doesn’t sweat a lot, your body might not be very efficient in maintaining your body temperature.  You would be better off getting your exercise inside in air conditioning during the dog days of summer.

Timing is everything.  If you are going to exercise outside during very hot weather, try to do it early in the morning or later in the day.  Avoid the 10 am to 3 pm slot where the day is the hottest. Towards dawn, my favorite time, it’s easily twenty degrees cooler than the middle of the day.

Let your body get acclimated to the heat. It can take your body 1-2 weeks to acclimate to exercising in the hotter humid weather.  To acclimate, slowly increase the amount of time that you are exercising and the intensity over a 1 to 2 week period.

Stay hydrated. Drink water, at least 2 cups before you even start to exercise. You want to make sure your body starts out well hydrated.  Continue to drink water during your workout, even if you’re not thirsty.  Most people will do well just drinking water and don’t need sport drinks unless you are exercising at a very high intensity and/or for a long duration.

I find that most commercial sports drinks are way too concentrated and too high in sugar.  If you are using these, dilute them.  Better yet, experiment with making your own.  Take water, squeeze in some lime and add a pinch of sea salt.  Or try combining some organic juice with equal amounts of water and again a pinch of sea salt.

Use sunscreen. Protect your skin from burning and losing even more electrolytes.

Be smart during this hot season, assess your heat tolerance and decide if it’s still good for you to exercise outside. Be sensible. Perhaps you’d be better off back in air conditioning.  If you are unsure, spend a short amount of time in the heat at low intensity and then work up.  This will give you a chance to learn from your body without risking heat related problems.

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