Summer is the perfect season to get outside and be active in the wonderful warm weather and fresh air. But being outdoors in the heat for long periods of time has its downsides — like heat exhaustion, dehydration and cramping. And let’s not forget about sunburn.
You can avoid these summertime risks with a little knowledge about fitness safety in the heat.
Do It Outdoors
Try to get outside as often as you can to work out. Some excellent outdoor fitness options include swimming, tennis, running, walking, golf, rollerblading, biking, volleyball and softball. And why not try traditionally indoor activities outside, as well? Your backyard or a quiet park or meadow could make a beautiful backdrops for yoga, Tai Chi and qigong.
You can even add some fitness to your summer vacations, without having it feel like exercise. Instead of driving to explore your vacation destination, choose to walk, hike or bike instead. And if you’re taking a cruise, most ships have swimming pools, and many offer fitness classes and even rock climbing. Take advantage of these unique opportunities to stay fit and have fun at the same time.
Stay Safe in the Sun and Heat
While working out in nature can be fulfilling in many ways, staying safe in the heat should be a top priority. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, cramping and heatstroke. To prevent these problems, drink about two glasses of water before your workout, then continuously (at least 4 ounces every 20 minutes) while you are exercising, especially when it is hot or humid out. Water is preferable, but sports drinks and even coconut water provide adequate hydration, as well.
Wear breathable clothing.
Avoid wearing dark colors, which absorb heat, and cotton, which absorbs sweat and stays wet and uncomfortable against your skin. Instead, choose lightweight fabrics that wick moisture away from your body to help keep you cool. You can find workout clothing made with these materials at most sporting goods stores.
Protect your skin and eyes.
Wear sunscreen — preferably one that is natural and doesn’t contain any questionable chemicals. (See 5 Hidden Dangers in Sunscreen.) Be sure to reapply every hour, especially if you are sweating heavily. And don’t forget to wear a lightweight hat and sunglasses to protect your scalp and eyes from the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays.
Consider early morning or evening workouts.
If the weather is particularly oppressive, consider working out in the early morning or later in the evening, when the sun and heat aren’t as strong.
One big advantage of the summertime is that there are more daylight hours. Predawn workouts are an excellent way to start your day (and to not feel guilty about “vegging out” on the couch later on in the day).
But if you can’t or don’t want to exercise in the early morning, schedule your workout for later in the evening, before the sun sets. This can be a great time to go on a bike ride with your spouse or a run with a buddy.
Watch for signs of distress.
If you start feeling dizzy or experience a headache, cramping, fatigue, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, or cool, pale skin, get out of the sun and into a cool location right away. If the symptoms don’t go away, seek medical attention.
With these summer fitness safety tips in mind, go out and enjoy the many benefits of your outdoor workouts this summer.