As temperatures and humidity levels rise over summer, many of us retreat indoors to keep our exercise routine going. Swapping the outdoor running track for a treadmill in the gym is certainly a good idea, but if you plan to continue exercising outdoors, especially in regions where the temperature soars, it is important to prepare and protect your body against the effects of heat and sun.
Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself, but it also means the body is losing fluid, and if this isn’t sufficiently replenished, it can lead to dehydration. What's more, in hot and humid conditions the body has to work harder to regulate its core temperature, if this increases too much, it can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
If you are planning to exercise outdoors in the hotter months, keep these important tips in mind:
- Hydrate properly: Before heading out to exercise, make sure you are sufficiently hydrated. Carry water or sports drinks with you to sip intermittently while exercising, and make sure you continue to hydrate even after you finish working out. Your physician will be able to advise you on exactly how much fluid you should be consuming on a daily basis.
- Use sun protection: Sunburn is another risk when exercising outdoors, so applying a UVA/UVB sunscreen with a minimum of SPF15 is a must. Adding sunglasses and a cap to your gym kit also helps to protect your eyes and face from harmful rays.
- Time it right: Change the timings of your workouts to avoid being outside in the hottest part of the day; early morning or in the evening are the best times for exercising.
- Monitor humidity levels: Humidity prevents the evaporation of sweat into the atmosphere meaning sweat collects on your skin instead, restricting your body’s ability to cool down and increasing the risk of dehydration. On days when humidity is high, it’s best to move your workout indoors.
- Don’t overdo it: Summer isn’t the time to add a few extra kilometers to your run or try to shave 10 seconds off your best time. Instead, relax the intensity of your workout and focus on how your body feels while exercising.
- Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking, light-colored clothing to help draw sweat away from your body and reflect the sun for a more comfortable and safe outdoor workout.
- Pay attention to your body: Cramps, headache, difficulty breathing, dizziness or tiredness are indicators of heat exhaustion or other heat-related illnesses. If you experience any of these, stop and call for medical help, then rehydrate and find a shaded or cool place to rest and wait for help to arrive. Place a wet towel or t-shirt around the neck to help the body return to normal temperature.