Get in shape this summer
Six great tips for safe exercise in the heat of summer
If your new years resolutions include exercising more & getting back in shape then well done! Whether you’re looking for better health or a better body, it’s a great way to start 2014. But exercising in the heat of an Australian summer can be a little risky if you don’t take some simple steps to make sure you’re keeping your body cool & hydrated.
Heat exhaustion & heat stroke are serious problems that can come from exercising in the height of summer, especially if you’re just starting or increasing your exercise routine. Basically, they happen when the body can no longer control its internal temperature or loses too much fluid.
Our bodies are normally warmer than our environment, so as we exercise we release heat by sweating. But this system begins to break down when our environment heats up to be nearly as hot or hotter than our body, & humidity makes this even worse. We have to sweat more & more as the temperature increases & dehydration becomes a much bigger risk. Exercising in hot conditions can overstretch our cooling system so we lose too much fluid & become unable to control our body’s temperature.
Signs of heat exhaustion are fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, & an increase in body temperature. Signs of heat stroke, which is more severe & can be fatal, include body temperatures above 40 degrees, being unable to sweat, respiratory distress & loss of consciousness.
But there’s no need to resign your new years exercise resolution to the “good idea” scrapheap – just take note of the tips below on how to keep safe as you exercise this summer. Of course, if you haven’t exercised for a while or are not sure if you have any medical conditions that might affect your exercise ability it’s best to get checked out by your health professional before you start.
TIP 1 – GET OUT EARLY OR LATE
Really simple, but it works. Try to do your sessions before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
TIP 2 – STAY HYDRATED
This is one of the most important considerations for summer exercise, & if you only think about fluid intake as you start your session it’s too little too late. You need to keep well hydrated through the day – drinking lots as you eat is a good start. The recommended intake for the average adult is 2.1L for women & 2.6L for men but when you exercise try to drink an extra 1-2 cups at least 30 minutes before exercise, 1/2 – 1 cup each 15 minutes during your session & then drink until you are no longer thirsty after your session.
A simple way to check if you’re well hydrated is check the colour of your urine. It should be the colour of lemonade – if it’s darker then you haven’t been taking on enough fluid. Also, if you’re going 4-6 hours without passing urine you’re not hydrated enough.
TIP 3 – PLAN FOR SHADE
If you can, exercise in a shady spot. Plan a run so that it’s at least partly out of direct sunlight. For outdoor bootcamp-type training find a shady part of a park.
TIP 4 – MEDICATIONS, COFFEE & ALCOHOL
Some common over-the-counter & prescription medications can reduce your body’s ability to cope with heat. Antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants & some blood pressure medications can cause problems. If you are on any of these it’s best to consult your doctor before you start exercising.
Also although we don’t normally think of them as drugs, remember that caffeine & alcohol are both diuretics – i.e. they increase urine production. This increases fluid loss so you need to avoid them prior to exercising in hot conditions.
TIP 5 – WEAR LIGHT, BREATHABLE CLOTHING
There is a huge range of affordable light-weight workout gear so make sure you get yourself kitted out correctly. Choosing fabrics that wick away sweat can really help your cooling system, & also remember the sunscreen!
TIP 6 – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Your body will usually tell you how hard you can push exercise in the summer heat so listen to it! If you’re still recovering from a recent illness or jetlag, feeling rundown for whatever reason or not feeling 100%, then an intense session in the heat of the day is a really bad idea. Your body will already be working below par & stressing it even more will at best be just pointless, & at worst quite dangerous. And even if you’re feeling fine remember it’s not wimping out to reduce the intensity or volume of your session if your body feels like it’s really struggling more than usual because the heat may be having a bigger effect than you planned for.