Exercising outdoors might be something you do all year round, or something that’s a summer treat. Either way, the temperatures tend to rise, and these days…they’re hotter than ever.
Not only do most people prefer to exercise outdoors, but it comes with its own health benefits, too. One randomized study showed that compared to those who exercised indoors, those who exercised outdoors felt more revitalized, had more energy and positive engagements, and less tension, confusion, anger and depression.
But alongside these health benefits, it’s important to be aware of the risks of exercising outdoors in the heat, and how to safely workout in the summer sun.
Despite the differences between the temperatures different bodies can sustain comfortably, exercising in the heat universally puts additional stress on our bodies.
Working out in higher temperatures raises our internal temperatures quickly. As our body tries to keep itself cool, it pulls more blood volume away from the muscles to circulate more blood through the skin to cool us down. With less blood, our muscles work even harder, which increases our heart rate.
When working out in a hot and humid environment, the risks rise even higher. Instead of efficiently cooling our bodies through sweat, the sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly in humid environments, which pushes the internal body temperature even higher.
To avoid the health risks of exercising in the heat, we need to know how to safely workout outside.
Exercising in temperatures above 90 degrees increases your risk of heat exhaustion, and working out in weather above 92 degrees can put you at risk for heatstroke - the more serious of the two conditions.
It’s best to avoid working out in extreme heat altogether and to plan your outdoor exercise for cooler times of the day like early morning or in the evening.
Look out for signs that the heat is too much for your body before it breaks down into heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
These include: muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, weakness, headache, excessing sweating, confusion, or feeling dizzy or lightheaded. If you feel any of these symptoms while exercising in the heat, it’s advisedthat you stop exercising, lower your body temperature, and get hydrated right away.
Sweat is the natural way our bodies thermoregulate to cool ourselves down. In higher temperatures, you sweat even more and lose even more water. That’s why staying hydrated before, during and after your workout is essential.
The official recommendation for staying hydrated in the heat, includes: drinking 2 glasses of water before your workout, replenish with 1 glass of water every 10-20 minutes of your workout, then drink plenty of water after your workout to replace what you lost in sweat.
Not only do you excrete water through your sweat, but you also lose electrolytes – specifically sodium. Usually, eating regular meals and staying hydrated is enough to keep your electrolyte balance, but when we sweat more, it’s helpful to add a few extra snacks to replenish your sodium levels.
If you’re looking to quickly replace your sodium with a specialized beverage, be aware of the additional sugars that might be added.
Exercising outside is not only enjoyable, it’s great for your health! Just be safe when those summer temperatures rise, and help your body stay cool with these helpful tips.