In Colorado it’s not rare to see some dedicated athletes fighting frighteningly warm temperatures to get in their midday run. Regardless of your athletic prowess though, exercising in the heat of the day can pose some serious health risks. As always, we want to encourage you to get outside, and get exercising, but always be smart about how and when you exercise. Here’s our complete (Mayo Clinic advised) guide to staying healthy in the heat.
When exercising in the heat your body fights to stay cool both from the exercise itself and the weather. To lower your core temperature your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This means there’s less blood circulating throughout your body, which then increases your heart rate. The average resting heart rate for an adult ranges from 60-100 beats per minute. But already, in the heat of your day your heart could be pumping at a higher rate to counteract the temperature. That means you’re beginning your workout with your heart already exercising. Any workout you do in the heat of the day will already be more strenuous on your heart, so take that into consideration when you’re planning your exercise routine and opt for something slightly easier than usual.
The body has many methods of self-correcting temperature, but perhaps the most obvious is sweat. When we’re fighting against warm weather, our body produces sweat so we can cool ourselves down. When, however, there’s a high percentage of humidity in the air our sweat may not evaporate as quickly, and that can actually push your core temperature even higher. To ensure your safety it’s best not to double down on heat and humidity. If the humidity is more than 65% and the temperature anywhere above 75 degrees Fahrenheit it’s best to trade outdoor exercising for indoor.
If you haven’t quite reached your weight loss goals, and are shying away from shorts or short-sleeved shirts, know you’re not alone. When you’re exercising in the heat though, it’s always wise to choose light-colored, thin clothes that allow your body to breath, wick away sweat, and absorb less light.
Many of the symptoms of heat-related illness align closely with the side effects of a rigorous workout. When you’re exercising in the heat it’s important to know the difference.
Heat Cramps: While these are very similar to regular cramps you may get after running, heat cramps could actually make your muscles feel firm to the touch. If you’re having cramps and it’s above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to take a break, drink some water, or call it a day.
Heat Syncope and Fainting: If you’re feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or if you faint, that can be a clear sign of heat syncope. When you begin to feel lightheaded stop, drink some water, and if you don’t feel better within a couple of minutes, call it quits.
Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is when your body temperature raises as high as 104 degrees. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and cold clammy skin. Heat exhaustion is serious, and if left untreated can lead to heatstroke. If you have any of these symptoms stop exercising immediately, find a way to cool down your body (ice packs, cold water etc.) drink lots of water, and if possible, have someone stay with you who can help monitor your condition. If you don’t feel better within 30 minutes, go to the doctor.
Heatstroke: Heatstroke is the most serious of heat-related illness and if left untreated can cause organ failure, brain damage, and even death. Symptoms include confusion, irritability, heart rhythm problems, dizziness, nausea, visual problems and fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms go to a doctor immediately.
The hard truth is that the heat can be dangerous whether you know the warning signs or not. Heat-related illnesses can range in severity from a bad sunburn, to life-threatening heatstroke. You may have momentum in your workout routine and not want to skip a day because of the temperature, but know that not even a six-pack is worth the risk of working out in the heat of the day. If you can, stick to evening or morning workouts or find a cool place indoors. For small space exercises you can do inside take a look here and here.
As is the case with all ThrivePass tips, be sure to consult a doctor to find out what works best for you. Stay safe this summer! As always, stay up to date with all ThrivePass news by following us here or on Twitter and LinkedIn.