For everything, there is a season — and for exercising, those seasons are fall, winter, spring and summer.
Exercising should be an important part of your routine, no matter the time of year. Moving your body for at least 150 minutes a week helps keep off the extra pounds and lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious health concerns.
Going outside for a little exercise sounds great in the spring and fall, but summertime isn’t always as easy. Not only can exercising in the summer make you a hot, sticky mess, it can also be dangerous if you get overheated. If you take the right precautions, however, you can still have a successful outdoor workout.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you plan your summer workouts:
Limit your sun exposure
The first step to staying safe in the summer heat is to avoid the sun as much as you can. If you want to go out for a run, your best bet is to do it bright and early. Avoid the hottest time of day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Skipping these hours also will protect you from dangerous ultraviolet rays that can increase your risk for skin cancer. When you do go out, use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to block those harmful UV rays.
Wear the right clothing
The clothes you wear make a big difference in how your body handles the heat. When you sweat and the sweat evaporates from your skin, it helps cool your body down. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, absorbent clothes to help that process work as it should.
Drink plenty of water
You always need to drink water to replace what your body loses during exercise, and this is even more important when you are exercising in the heat. Drinking enough water enables your body to sweat while you exercise and cool you down. Have a drink of water before you exercise, and keep hydrating throughout your workout. Drink enough to keep your urine light-colored, not dark. Water or a sports drink will do a good job of hydrating you while you work out. Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you, so save those for another time.
Don’t work too hard
As much as you’d like to power through the heat, you should consider adapting your workout during the summer months if you plan to exercise outdoors. Overworking and overheating your body won’t do it any good, so plan for short exercises if it is hot or humid outdoors.
Know the signs of heat illness
Even with precautions, it can be easy to get overheated. Watch out for signs of heat illness so you can cool down quickly. Heavy sweating, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps are all signs that you should take a break and cool down. Hot skin, a fast pulse and high body temperature are signs of a heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Call 911 right away if you or someone you are with appears to be suffering a heat stroke and try to lower body temperature.
“You can exercise outdoors safely, even during the summertime,” says Jake Schlottman, administrator at Heritage Park Nursing Center and Heritage Court Assisted Living. “It is important to listen to your body when you are out in the heat and cool down before you become overheated.”
Don’t let the heat throw a wrench into your summer workout. Exercise early, stay hydrated and take it easy to make sure your body can handle the heat.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.