Exercising Safely in Hot Weather

When the temperature starts to soar, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe.

As the weather warms up, it’s a great time to get back to those outdoor activities that are not only fun but also good for us, like riding a bike, jogging or walking. But when the temperature starts to soar, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe.

If you’re a heart patient, over age 50 or overweight, check with your healthcare provider before starting any outdoor physical activity routine. Certain heart medicines like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics remove sodium from the body, which can exaggerate the body’s response to heat. Your doctor can advise you on the best outdoor exercise for your condition.

When you’re heading outside, it’s best to avoid the early afternoon (noon to 3 p.m.) because the sun is at its strongest, which can put you at risk for heat-related illnesses that occur when your body can’t properly cool itself. If you can, buddy up with a friend—it’s not only more fun but safer to have someone with you in case you start feeling sick.

Make sure you’re dressed properly for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes in breathable fabrics like cotton, or a fabric that repels sweat. Wear a hat and sunglasses if you can. Choose well-ventilated shoes and look for socks that repel sweat. Foot powders and antiperspirants can also help. Don’t forget the sunscreen—even if it’s an overcast day, your skin can still be damaged by the sun. Choose one with an SPF of 15 or higher and reapply it every two hours.

Staying hydrated is especially important when the heat rises. Your heart doesn’t have to work as hard when you’re hydrated, and staying hydrated helps your muscles remove waste so they can work more efficiently. If you don’t drink enough water your body becomes dehydrated, which can lead to problems from swollen feet and a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke. The amount of water you need depends on the climate, what you’re wearing and the physical activity you’re doing. Being thirsty isn’t a good indicator—if you get thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Stay hydrated by drinking a few cups of water before, during and after you exercise. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as well as fruit juices or sugary drinks, which can be hard on your stomach when you’re dehydrated. Sports drinks can be useful if you’re doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, but they are high in calories.

Take regular breaks while you’re exercising so you don’t get overheated. If you experience any of the following symptoms of heat exhaustion, immediately move to a cooler area, stop exercising and drink water:

  • headaches
  • heavy sweating
  • cold, moist skin and chills
  • dizziness or fainting
  • weak and fast pulse
  • muscle cramps
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • nausea, vomiting or both.

If you don’t begin to feel better, seek medical attention.

Spending time exercising in the great outdoors can be fun and good for your heart—as long as you take the proper precautions to stay safe!

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