Is it safe to exercise in the summer heat?
Yes. With cautious planning one can safely exercise in the summer heat. Uncontrolled increase in body’s temperature is the greatest danger we should avoid. It is worth noting that summer itself is stressful to most of us.
Adding the stress of exercise during summer heat has synergistic stress effect on the heart and also on the body’s cooling mechanism. A high body temperature affects the brain function and the drive to exercise. Hence a carefully planned summer exercise regimen is necessary to cope with the temperature stress as well as exercise stress.
Heat acclimation tips
You have to acclimate your body to exercise in summer heat so that your heart is not stressed much. Initially a short aerobic exercise bout of 10-15 minutes or less must be attempted. Gradually increase it to 30-60 minutes per session over a period of 10-15 days.
By this gradual acclimation, at a given exercise intensity heart rate as well as body core temperature decreases whereas the sweating and cooling rate increases. The relative loss of electrolytes in the sweat also decreases with acclimation. Without acclimating even healthy persons may become stressed.
Please note that the beneficial effect of acclimation will be lost and there will be rapid de-acclimation, if a person discontinues his exercise in heat conditions for 3-4 weeks period. Then this person has to acclimate himself all over again.
Ideal time for exercise in the summer
If the ambient temperature is above 90°F and the humidity is above 60%, it is better to curtail exercise to protect yourself from injury.
- According to the heat stress index of The American Council on Exercise, under normal circumstances there is no harm in exposure at a temperature below 80°F (27°C).
- Fatigue is possible with prolonged exposure at 80–90°F (27–32°C).
- Heat cramps and exhaustion are possible at 90–105°F (32–41°C).
- Cramps and exhaustion is likely and heatstroke is possible 105–130°F (41–54°C).
- At a temperature over 130°F (54°C) heatstroke is imminent.
It is better to beat the summer by having the exercise session in the early morning or late in the evening in summer.
Humidity and summer
Sweating cools your body by taking away the heat from your skin during evaporation. When the weather is humid in summer and the air is already near saturated with moisture the sweat remains on the skin as it cannot evaporate. In such a situation the body temperature keeps increasing during exercise and stress may result.
Dress for exercise in the summer
Wear minimal, loose-fitting, lightweight and water absorbing clothing while exercising in summer. Tight-fitting thick clothing impermeable to water will hamper the evaporation of sweat and subsequent cooling of the skin and cause heat injury.
Light-colored clothing reflects the sun rays away. Though head helps in cooling the body, it can also increase temperature in sun exposure. If the exercise is outdoor, wear loose-fitting hat to protect yourself from summer sun.
Stay hydrated during exercise in the summer heat
As a daily routine, thirty minutes before start of exercise make sure that you are sufficiently hydrated by taking copious amounts of water. Avoid drinks containing caffeine or alcohol as they dehydrate you.
During the session, for every 15-20 minutes take a break to drink water. At the end of the session drink fluids till the thirsty feeling ceases. If the session extends beyond 60 minutes consider drinking sport drink to replace lost electrolyte salts in the sweat.
Dangerous side effects of excessive exercise in summer
Hyperthermia denotes a bunch of body-temperature-related illness caused by high temperature of the body. If the body temperature goes beyond 100°F and if the humidity is also high, there is always the danger of hyperthermia. The balance between the heat made by the body and that it loses, goes haywire.
In such a situation a person may suffer heat syncope with symptoms like light-headedness, dizziness and fainting. Resting in a cool place, drinking water and putting legs up may relieve the symptoms.
Some people suffer cramps with raised body temperature in summer exercise. These cramps are painful tightening of muscles of legs, arms or stomach. Resting in a cool place and drinking water may relieve the cramps.
Heat exhaustion shows symptoms like thirsty feeling, dizziness, weakness, nausea and lack of coordination. There may be profuse sweating and the skin may feel cold and sticky. The pulse rate may go up. Stop exercise immediately.
Resting in a cool place and taking lots of fluids may correct the condition. If the condition persists take immediate medical help. If immediate action is not taken this may lead to heat stroke.
The symptoms of heat stroke are fainting, confused behavior, dry skin, rapid or slow pulse, staggering and leading to coma. In such a situation immediate hospitalization and medical aid is required. Please remember that it is a life-threatening situation.
To summarize, following the above health tips can keep one safe while exercising daily in the summer heat.
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1.The American Council on Exercise; www.acefitness.org
2.National Institutes of Health — Heat Illness; www.health.nih.gov/topic/HeatIllness
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