As our crazy British summer weather continues we are never quite sure what the weather is going to be from one day to the next! The problem with this fluctuating weather is that we don’t get chance to acclimatise properly to the heat. Summer and exercise make for an excellent combination as the longer days and lighter nights allow us to embark on a more varied programme of activities. However, any form of physical activity, whether it be a walk in the park, your Pilates class, a bike ride in the sun or a 10K run can take it’s toll on your body in the heat. When taking on summer exercise, we need to be prepared for the increase in heat and humidity.
When our bodies heat up, our muscles regulate heat by releasing sweat, which allows the body to cool itself. But when the body is sweating, it’s losing fluid. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke, dangerous side effects of overdoing summer exercise, come when the body can no longer sustain the pace, the heat, the humidity, or the loss of fluid.
This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your quest for a great summer workout. Just follow these simple guidelines to exercise smart in the heat.
- Stay hydrated
It’s important to take plenty of fluid on board before, during and after exercise. 8-12oz is the recommended amount prior to your exercise session. Water is best. Avoid fancy sports drinks as they add unnecessary sodium and calories to your diet.
- Take it slow
Accept that the increased heat and humidity will affect your performance. Slow down the pace and listen to your body.
- Wear light, breathable clothing
Lightweight clothing in sweat resistant material will help to keep you cool. Try vest tops and shorts or cropped pants so as not to cover up the larger working muscles that generate more body heat. Choose light coloured clothing to reflect the heat. Use plenty of sun protection cream if exercising outdoors. Wear a hat and sunglasses as this will help to prevent headaches as well as offering protection.
- Exercise early or late
Avoid the hottest part of the day and exercise in the morning or later in the evening. Exercising in the morning is a great way to kick start your day and fire up the metabolism.
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist
If you take medication regularly be aware of their potential side effects and whether these may be intensified by heat and/or exercise. Decongestants, appetite suppressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, and antidepressants can hasten dehydration. Even diuretics like caffeine and alcohol, when consumed before exercising in the heat, can accelerate the effects of dehydration. Always speak to your doctor before you embark on a new exercise regime, especially if you have existing medical conditions.
- Use common sense
Bearing all of the above in mind, be sensible, listen to your body and know when to stop. Lower your performance expectations and just enjoy the exercise session. Be prepared with plenty of fluid, appropriate clothing and sun protection. Take a break or stop completely if you feel dizzy, faint or nauseous. Exercising little and often is still better than nothing at all. Take care of your body and it will take care of you!