Golly it has been beautiful outside these past few days! If you live in Washington State, you know what I am talking about! The sun shining brightly down on the beautiful snow-capped mountains and everyone seems to be out and about enjoying it. Yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of people out walking/running; it was awesome! However, with beautiful weather and thus the heat (fingers crossed we get a lot of it), you should take precaution when exercising outdoors (and indoors) especially in areas with extreme heat and humidity.
Exercise and the air temperature increases your core body temperature, in turn, increasing the stress placed on your cardiovascular system. For every one degree increase in body temperature, your heart rate increases approximately 10 bpm. Luckily when you exercise, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration levels adjust to the heat. While exercising, your body sends a signal to provide blood and oxygen to the working muscles but with an increase in core temperature, your body must also shunt blood to the skin where it can be cooled through evaporation of sweat. Your body is incredibly intelligent and works overtime to cool you down but if you aren’t drinking enough fluids or are exposed to high humidity/temperatures for an extended period of time, your cooling system can experience problems and lead to heat-related illnesses.
If heat-related illnesses (heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke) occur, symptoms appear in a mild manner but worsen if left untreated. Signs and symptoms include muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and weakness, headache, dizziness and confusion. There are several factors to consider when exercising in the heat and these precautionary steps are well worth the planning!
- Time of day is important. As the day goes on, the temperature increases! If you know that it is going to be a hot one, exercise first thing in the morning when the temperatures and humidity are still cool(er). If you are a night owl, you can also head out later in the evening (8pm or so).
- Stay hydrated! This is a must. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water in the heat by carrying a water bottle with you and try to sip on water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty. When you sweat, you are not only losing water but you are losing electrolytes and salt. For a healthy alternative to sports drinks, replace your water with coconut water to help replenish your body.
- Wear light-colored clothes (and less clothing). The lighter color will help reflect the heat and keep you cooler. Try cotton material to help with sweat evaporation or there are high tech clothing options also available. Instead of layering up, run in shorts or cropped tights and a tank or loose tee.
- Wear your sunscreen! Make sure you are wearing at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun. Try a sport block that lasts through sweat and water. If you have a sunburn, it decreases the body’s ability to cool itself.
- Listen to your body! As I have mentioned, your body is smart so listen to it. If you start to experience any of the symptoms or do not feel well, do not try and push through it. Exercising outdoors can be a lot of fun, but pay attention to what your body is saying when doing so.