Exercising in the Heat

#Summer may seem far away right now, but the hottest time of the year is right around the corner. Whether you’re out for a run, playing #basketball with #friends or participating in strength #exercises, the #heat will alter your performance. As the summer season approaches us, it’s important to understand how the heat affects our bodies when we exercise as well as some basic steps to avoid heat-related illnesses in hot weather.

First, exercising in the heat puts an extra stressor on our bodies. When you begin a #workout, your core body temperature naturally rises. Combining this with the heightened air temperature increases an individual's risk to heat-related illnesses. Additionally, our bodies attempt to cool ourselves by circulating more blood through the skin, leaving less blood for other body parts. As a result, a decreased amount of blood is utilized for the muscles that are producing the work during exercise. Lastly, working out in hot weather will result in a deficiency in evaporating sweat from the skin. This makes it difficult to cool down, as our bodies use #sweat on the skin to reduce body temperature.

Without taking precautions, exercising in hotter temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses. These include, but are not limited to, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Cramps can be an early sign of dehydration due to working muscles not receiving the proper amount of blood and nutrients. Muscles eventually tighten to the point where an individual can no longer use them and can even be painful in severe cases. It’s important to note that your body temperature may be normal if you encounter these.

The two other major, yet common, illnesses require a body temperature of at least 104 F. An individual who is experiencing heat exhaustion will often encounter symptoms like nausea, headaches, fainting and cold and clammy skin. Pay attention to these signs as your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. If an individual continues exercising with these symptoms, they can experience heatstroke, which can be life-threatening. These symptoms of heat exhaustion may come to a halt, and someone may start to develop symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, vomiting and even visual problems. The overall result of heatstroke can be permanent brain damage, organ failure and in severe cases, death. To reiterate, these heat-related illnesses will progress from one to the next if one doesn’t take the necessary precautions into stopping these from occurring.

The majority of us may never encounter these heat-induced illnesses, however, it cannot be stressed enough to take proper steps in order to avoid these.

#Hydration may seem like the most basic step, but it's the most controllable and essential step that we can take. If you feel yourself getting thirsty for a drink of water, you’re likely dehydrated already. A good rule of thumb is to drink half an ounce of water per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should try to aim for at least 100 ounces of water per day adjusting with exercise and other factors.

Another preventative step is staying informed of weather conditions. This is critical for those who are used to training indoors or colder climates, such as Wisconsin. Knowing the outside temperature can help you plan for the intensity and duration of the workout. The hotter the day, the less intense of workout you want to experience.

Going hand-in-hand with this is knowing your fitness level. For less trained individuals, more time should be taken to get acclimated to the heat. Some experts claim that taking a couple of weeks is enough time for the body to adapt properly. Others claim that it takes roughly a month. It really depends on the fitness level of the individual, so self-monitor and listen to your body while acclimating.

Lastly, dressing appropriately will have an impact in avoiding heat-related illnesses. Avoid using tighter clothing as this will be harder for the body to cool down through sweat. It’s recommended that individuals who exercise in hot climates should wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing as well as lighter colors. Dark colors will attract more sunlight to you, which increases the body’s temperature.

It’s critical for people to understand the effects of hotter weather on our bodies as well as some preventative measures to avoid heat-related illnesses. By taking the proper precautions, you can maximize your workouts and bypass the heat-induced illnesses by following the tips that will help keep you happy and active in the summertime.

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