How to Safely Work Out in the Summer: Staying Fit and Beating the Heat*
Most people aim to spend as much time outdoors as possible in the summer. The warmer months are a great opportunity to enjoy the sunshine, from beach days to picnics to outdoor barbeques. However, the soaring temperatures and high humidity levels can present unique challenges when maintaining a workout routine. Exercising in the heat requires extra caution to avoid heat-related illnesses and dehydration.
Who Should Not Workout in the Heat
Before you get started, it is essential to note if you are someone who can safely work out in hotter temperatures. According to the New York Times, “Those who exercise less regularly, who aren’t used to the heat, are sleep-deprived, are sick, or are older have more trouble cooling off, which puts them at increased risk for heat-related illnesses.”
Meaning – unless you are feeling your best, it would be wise to take your workout indoors during the peak heat of the summer.
Hydration is Key
Regarding working out in the summer, staying hydrated is non-negotiable. The heat can lead to excessive sweating, which means you lose more water during workouts. Make it a habit to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water or refill a 32oz water bottle at least 2 – 3 times daily. After more prolonged intense workout sessions, consider sipping on a sports drink that replenishes electrolytes lost through sweating.
Time Your Workouts Wisely
Timing is crucial when exercising in the summer. Especially when working out at the peak of the day, when temperatures can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. Plan your workouts during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, to avoid the peak heat hours. Exercising when the sun is less intense helps prevent heat exhaustion, sunburn and makes your workout more enjoyable.
If you must exercise during the day, seek shaded park areas, or opt for indoor workouts in air-conditioned spaces.
Proper workout attire can significantly affect how you handle the summer heat. Choose lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothing that evaporates sweat, keeping you cool during workouts. Put on light-colored outfits instead of darker colors, as the lighter colors tend to reflect sunlight rather than absorb it, helping you stay cooler. Remember to accessorize with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Need help deciding which sunscreen to use? Check out the list of top sunscreens from Consumer Reports Best of 2023 here.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
A proper warm-up and cool-down are essential components of any workout routine, especially in the summer. Before starting your main workout, spend a few minutes warming up to prepare your body for exercise. Gradually increase your intensity instead of diving into high-intensity exercises immediately. Similarly, after your workout, cool down with some stretches to lower your heart rate gradually and prevent dizziness or fainting due to sudden stops.
Modify Your Workout
Adjusting your workout routine to accommodate the summer heat is a wise decision. Consider breaking your usual workout into shorter, more frequent sessions instead of prolonged exercises. Some individuals opt for an “80-80 rule”, meaning that on days when the temperature goes about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity, it's time to take a workout indoors.
On those scorching days, try less strenuous activities such as swimming, water aerobics, or indoor workouts like yoga or Pilates. These alternatives keep you cool and provide an enjoyable and refreshing experience.
Listen to Your Body
Your body is an excellent communicator, and paying attention to its signals is essential, especially during summer workouts. If you experience dizziness, nausea, headache, or excessive fatigue, immediately stop exercising and find a cool, shaded area to rest. Pushing yourself too hard in the heat can lead to heatstroke or heat exhaustion, which can be dangerous.
Don't let the summer heat deter you from achieving your fitness goals. By following these safety tips, you can continue working out effectively while minimizing the risk of heat-related illnesses. Remember to stay hydrated, choose appropriate workout times and clothing, modify your routine when necessary, and always listen to your body. Embrace the summer season, stay fit, and enjoy your workouts while beating the heat! With the right approach, you can have a fun and successful workout experience throughout the summer.
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