Beat the Heat: Top 7 Tips to Outdoor Summer Exercise 07/28/2010 What happens to your body when you exercise outdoors in the summer? The correct answer is a lot. Exercising in hot summer months pushes your body’s cooling systems more than normal indoor workouts, but if you follow these 7 tips, a hard outdoor summer workout can be safe, effective and fun.
1.) Hydration is key to a healthy outdoor summer workout. It is important to hydrate before, during and after your exercise outside. Even if you are not thirsty, you should still be hydrating. If you are not drinking enough and you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Water is enough for exercising for less than 40 minutes, but for anything more than 40 minutes you should consider some type of sports drink to replenish sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Lastly, stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking roughly 13 cups of total beverages a day for men and 9 cups of total beverages a day for women. As a word of caution, you can actually over hydrate causing hyponatremia causing your sodium levels to become too low.
2.)Proper clothing is another very important factor to a healthy outdoor summer workout. As technology progresses, fitness clothing becomes more efficient at wicking away sweat and moisture from the body. Always wear loose fitting clothing that is comfortable to help more air hit the body to evaporate any moisture. Also consider wearing light colored clothing as opposed to dark colored clothing as dark colors actually absorb heat. Consider wearing a light colored hat as well to limit exposure to the sun. Lastly, try to avoid working out during the middle of the day when the heat and sun exposure is the most intense. Try to work out in the early morning or later in the evening to avoid the brunt of the midday heat and sun.
3.) Always wear sunscreen while exercising outside. Even on a cloudy day you can still be exposed to enough of the sun’s ray to get burned. Look for a sunscreen that is water and sweat resistant. Usually it will be some type of sport sunscreen that will be appropriately labeled. When considering the strength (SPF) of the sunscreen it is important to note an SPF of 15 filters out about 93 percent of the UVB rays whereas SPF 30 filters about 97 percent of UVB rays. So this does not mean that you can stay out twice as long in the sun with a SPF of 30. Also reapply every couple of hours as sunscreen looses its effectiveness over time. As an added bonus sunscreen can also prevent some types skin cancer.
4.) Also consider taking some extra gear with you while exercising outside during the summer months. One thing you could bring would be a heart rate monitor. With the increased temperature outside exercise becomes more difficult on the body. So wear a heart rate monitor to make sure you stay in your correct heart rate zone as you will reach that zone faster in higher temperatures. Consider bringing a belt designed to hold smaller water bottles to stay properly hydrated as carrying one large bottle can be cumbersome when exercising.
5.) One thing that many do not consider while working out in the summer is air quality. Most weather websites have an air quality or fitness index to inform you of whether it would be a good day to exercise outside. Each website can be different, but will tell you if the air quality and fitness index for that particular day will be low or high. A lot of different factors come in to play when considering air quality and the fitness index. They can be smog, car emissions, heat and humidity just to name a few. If you still want to exercise outside when the indexes are low, try to exercise in the shade away from any busy roads. This is especially important for those individuals who have conditions that low air quality and a low fitness index can easily affect such as allergies and asthma.
6.) Intensity is another important factor that should be modified when exercising outside in the summer months. If you are not used to exercising outside in the hot summer months take it slow. Take 10 days to 2 weeks to ramp up your workouts outside to get used to the higher temperatures, increased sun exposure and possible humidity. As you acclimate your body, you will better be able to handle the rigors of exercising outdoors in the summer. It is also a great idea to talk to your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough or do not have any pre-existing conditions that would contraindicate you exercising outdoors.
7.) It is very important to know the signs and symptoms of any heat related illnesses before you battle the summer heat. If you experience any of the following: weakness, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting and rapid heartbeat stop exercising right away. Drink plenty of fluids and find some shade. Splash water on your skin to help cool down your body even further. If after an hour you are still experiencing any of these signs and symptoms contact your doctor right away.
By: Dan Johnson
American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist