How to Exercise Safely in the Heat
Summer is the perfect time to take your workouts outside. Or, at least it can seem that way — until exercising in the heat makes you melt on the sidewalk mid-run.
But don’t throw in the towel just yet. With a little know-how, you can exercise safely in the heat. Read on to learn how.
Is it Safe to Work Out in the Heat?
Exercising in the heat is extra stressful for your body. Couple the exercise itself with the intense temperature and humidity, and your body has to work overtime to lower your core temperature.
To do this, your body circulates more blood through your skin, which leaves less blood for your muscles and gets your heart pumping faster, according to Mayo Clinic. The result: Exercise feels harder.
Your body also releases sweat to cool you off. However, if you run low on fluids, or the humidity is so high that the perspiration doesn’t evaporate quickly, your body temperature can soar, raising your risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, according to Mayo.
But all things considered, it can be safe to work out in the heat — you just have to be smart about it.
Take extra care if you’re new to your fitness journey and/or recovering from illness or injury. Touch base with your doctor before you try exercising in the heat, says Gowrie Hayden, an Openfit Live trainer in Atlanta, Ga.
Also, blood pressure medications, allergy medicines, beta-blockers, topical acne treatments, and some antidepressants can increase your risk of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and sunburn. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you take any of these medications to learn about potential side effects.
5 Tips for Working Out Safely in the Heat
Keep your cool with these outdoor workout tips.
Head off dehydration by downing at least 2.5 cups of water 2 hours before your workout, and 2 cups 10-15 minutes before heading out. Take a sip every 10-20 minutes during exercise, or more often if needed, Hayden says.
But be careful not to overdo it. Drinking too much water during exercise is actually bad for health.
2. Dial back
If you’re not used to exercising in the heat, you may be tempted to stick to your usual intensity. Unfortunately, this is a scenario in which the mind is willing, but the body needs time to catch up. “It takes 10 to 14 days for heat acclimation,” Hayden says. So, check your ego at the door and reduce the intensity and/or length of your workout until you get used to the heat.
3. Dress smart
Opt for lightweight workout clothes made of sweat-wicking fabrics. Shorts and tank tops are great options, but you may want to look into lightweight, long sleeve tees and cooling tights if you burn easily in the sun. Wearing a hat or visor can also help keep the sun off your face, Hayden says.
4. Time it right
If you can, get your outdoor workout done when temperatures are lowest. Usually, this will be early in the morning or later in the day, but check the weather forecast in your area.
5. Stop if needed
Don’t mess around if and when you notice signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. “If you find that you’re starting to feel lightheaded, or dizzy, or you’re cramping, you need to get back inside,” Hayden says.
Other warning signs include:
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Loss of coordination and focus
- Excessive fatigue
Stop exercise if you notice any of these symptoms, and seek immediate medical care if symptoms continue or worsen.