Exercising in the Heat–What You Need to Know

By: Kimberly Baldyga, MS ACSM HFS

The summer months are in full affect, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise your workout.  If you enjoy running, biking or exercising outdoors you can still take part in those activities as long as you know the pre-cautions to take.

Even when you exercise indoors, your body temperature rises and places stress on the body to try to cool it down.  Now take that same exercise and bring it outdoors with the sun and high temperatures.  The body will need to work even harder to cool itself off and try to circulate blood flow through the skin.  This in turn takes blood away from your muscles which increases your heart rate because now you need to work even harder.

There are a few things you can do to help offset some of the stress and be more efficient for your body.

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.  As your body cools itself off, you will sweat and lose fluids.  If you are going to exercise for a long period of time at a higher intensity, try drinking a sports drink or a beverage with electrolytes.
  • Exercise in the early morning or early evening.  This will help you avoid when the temperature and sun is at the highest point, usually around noon or midday.
  • Wear light clothing, avoid dark colors and be sure the fabric is something your skin and sweat can breathe in.
  • Don’t try to overdo your workout if it is your first time in the hot weather or sun.  You need to gradually get your body acclimated to the temperature and elements.  Start with a lower duration or intensity and build up to your regular workout.
  • Be aware of how you feel.  If you start to get cramping, light headed, chills, become dizzy or disoriented, you may be suffering from a heat illness.  Don’t try to work through it.

Exercising outdoors in the summer can be very enjoyable and refreshing from the usual indoor routine, but be sure to take the right steps to avoid illness or unneeded stress on the body.