Exercising in Warm Temperatures

by | Jun 23, 2022

Summer has finally arrived and with that comes longer days and higher temperatures. The summer months are great to get outside and shake off those winter blues. Popular summer activities such as running, hiking, and biking are great ways to exercise but how can we prevent our bodies from overheating?

The first, and most important aspect in my opinion is, staying hydrated. You might be saying to yourself ‘I drink enough water’ but in my experience most people do not. The best way to gauge how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis is taking half your body weight in ounces. However, depending on your climate such as a desert or humid environment those numbers should increase. If you’re a coffee drinker like myself, add an extra glass of water per cup of coffee you consume. Dehydration reduces endurance exercise performance, decreases time to exhaustion, and increases heat storage. In my opinion, if you want to set yourself up for success, hydration, especially in the summer months, is the first place to start.

When our body temperature rises during exercise we begin to sweat. This is very important step in helping our bodies cool off. As we sweat, it evaporates and therefore helps cool our bodies to prevent hyperthermia. The main limiting factor of evaporation is humidity. When there is more moisture in the air, less sweat evaporates which limits our body’s ability to release heat. If you’re in a desert climate you won’t have to worry about this too much but if you’re stuck on the east coast pay close attention to the humidity levels.

There are three main types of heat related injuries, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps occur when the body loses electrolytes through sweating. The best prevention of heat cramps is hydration! If you experience a heat cramp, immediately stop the exercise and rest, rehydrate, and stretch passively. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is dehydrated and has difficulty dissipating heat. Symptoms include a weak rapid pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and general weakness. One thing to also not is the body temperature is usually not elevated. If you’re out and experience these symptoms it’s best to lie down in a cool environment and replenish any loss of water. A hypotonic fluid is highly recommended. The most severe injury due to heat is a heat stroke. This is a true medical emergency. The symptoms of a heat stroke may mimic heat exhaustion however there are some subtle differences. Mental and emotional status can change, our gait will be unsteady, our skin will be warm and dry and our bodies will stop sweating. If you see someone experiencing these symptoms call 911 immediately. If at all possible, apply ice packs to the neck, axilla, and groin region. Soak anything in water and place it around the head and trunk areas. Whole body immersion in in ice bath is most effective and is best done naked to expose as much of the skin as possible. The person should not be allowed to move until first responders arrive or until shivering occurs in the ice bath.

The big takeaway from this is staying hydrated! Proper loose clothing and avoiding the hottest parts of the day are also great ways to make help prevent any heat related injuries!

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