How to Exercise Safely in Extreme Heat: 9 Best Ways to Avoid Illness

How to Exercise Safely in Extreme Heat: 9 Best Ways to Avoid Illness

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How to Exercise Safely In Extreme Heat: 9 Ways to Avoid Illness It's summer, and that means there are plenty of opportunities to get out and exercise. But it's also important to remember that the heat can be dangerous — especially if you're not prepared. And being prepared means you should know how to exercise safely to avoid heat-related illness.

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of getting sick while working out in hot temperatures. Some of these tips are obvious—like drinking plenty of water before your workout and replenishing afterward—and others might not be so obvious but are still very important.

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What Is Heat-related Illness?

Heat-related illness is a serious medical condition that can be caused by exercising in extreme heat. The symptoms of heat illness range from mild to life-threatening, and they include dehydration and cramps as well as heat stroke. In some cases, heat illness can even lead to death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

“Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this, around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”

What are the signs?

If you’re exercising in extreme heat, the Mayo Clinic recommends watching for the following signs that may indicate heat illness:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual problems

Here’s how to exercise safely in extreme heat and avoid illness:

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water before you head out and continue drinking throughout your workout. Sports drinks are fine, but don’t overdo it; the goal is to replace what you lose through sweating (and ideally, not make yourself a little bit more dehydrated than you were before).

Dress Appropriately

You can also avoid heat exhaustion by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Loose clothing allows air to circulate freely around the body and helps sweat evaporate keeping you cool.

Dark-colored clothing can absorb heat. Instead, choose light-colored clothing that reflects heat away from your body.

Finally, don’t forget about sunscreen and sunglasses! Don’t let the summer sun wreak havoc on your skin or eyesight!

Protect Yourself with Sunscreen

According to the Mayo Clinic, “A sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself and increases the risk of skin cancer”.

A good rule of thumb is to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. The number indicates how long you can be in the sun before you’ll start getting burned.

You should apply sunscreen about 15-30 minutes before going outside and remember to reapply it every 2 hours if you’re going to be outside all day. Even if you don’t burn easily, it’s important that everyone uses sunscreen! It doesn’t hurt to be extra careful when exercising in hot weather.

Sunscreen should also be applied even if there are clouds in the sky during the day because even though they may block some UV rays from hitting your skin directly, they still let them through indirectly—so anything over 50% coverage means full protection against UVB rays!

Follow These Tips for Healthy, Younger-looking Skin

Keep Your Fitness Level in Mind

While it’s not necessary to stop exercising because of high temperatures in your area, it’s important to keep your fitness level in mind.

Whether you’re a runner or a cyclist, hitting the pavement or the trail can be a great way to stay in shape. But if you’re new to exercise, you should take extra precautions when the temperatures rise. Start slow until you build up your strength and stamina.

Take it Slow

If you’re not used to exercising outside in hot weather, start slowly with workouts that don’t require a lot of effort or heavy breathing — such as walking or biking — so your body has time to adjust. You can gradually increase your intensity once your heat tolerance improves.

So, make sure not to push yourself too hard when you’re working out in extreme heat (over 90 degrees Fahrenheit). If you over-exert yourself, it can cause heat illness—a serious condition that can lead to heat stroke.

Start with a warm-up, then gradually increase your pace. Take frequent breaks to rest and rehydrate. If you’re feeling dizzy or sick, stop immediately!

Keep Your Heart Rate Down

How to Exercise Safely in Extreme Heat: 9 Best Ways to Avoid Illness

In general, you should keep your heart rate between 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to do this is by using the Karvonen method.

Dignity Health shows us how to calculate the heart rate of a 50-year-old person with a resting heart rate of 65:

  • 220 – 50 = 170 maximum heart rate
  • 170 – 65 = 105 resting heart rate
  • [105 x 0.75 (max intensity)] + 65 = 144 bpm

Calculate your resting heart rate

You can also use an athletic heart rate monitor with good sensors to get an accurate measure of how fast your heart is beating while exercising so that it doesn’t go over these limits during any high-intensity workout sessions.

Avoid Midday Exercise

When exercising in extreme heat, it’s important to limit your fitness activities to morning and evening hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day (between 10 AM and 4 PM). The sun is at its strongest midday, so avoid exercising during this time.

If you decide to exercise midday, try to stay in the shade as much as possible in places such as a nature trail or a park with large trees. You should also avoid exercising near reflective surfaces like pavement or water that reflect intense sunlight back up onto you in addition to what you already receive from above (this can increase your risk of overheating).

Exercise Indoors

When the temperature is too hot to exercise, it’s best to stay indoors and avoid the heat altogether. Get your workout by walking in an air-conditioned mall or at a fitness center.

If you would rather not exercise indoors, swimming is a perfect option. The water will help keep your body cool and swimming is also a great cardio workout! Keep in mind that you can still get dehydrated, so make sure to drink plenty of water, apply sunscreen and wear a hat.

Keep Medical Conditions in Mind

Heat can be dangerous, especially for people who are at increased risk for heat-related illness. This includes older adults, young children, people with chronic medical conditions and people taking certain medications.

If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, you may need extra time to recover from strenuous activity during the heat of summer. Check with your doctor on how much exercise is safe for you.

If you take certain medications during the summer months, check with your doctor on what precautions to take. Some drugs can cause dehydration which can increase the risk of heat-related illness in hot weather.

More Exercise Safety Tips

Make sure you exercise safely no matter the environment. Anytime you exercise, you should keep these guidelines from Harvard Health in mind:

  1. Warm-up and cool down
  2. Start slowly
  3. Don’t overdo it
  4. Listen to your body
  5. If you are new to exercise, ease into a routine
  6. Drink plenty of water
  7. Select the proper attire
  8. Follow good form when strength-training
  9. Be cautious when exercising in warm temperatures
  10. Wear layers when exercising in cold weather

Here are a few other exercise tips you will find useful:

  • Find an activity that you enjoy
  • Try new activities to keep from getting bored.
  • Get a workout buddy. Workout buddies support and motivate each other.
  • Be prepared. Have your workout gear packed in your gym bag or laid out on your dresser the night before. You will be less likely to skip your workout.
  • If you have a hectic schedule, you can break your workout into 2 to 3 shorter workouts. It still counts!

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Wrapping It Up

While exercise is a great way to stay healthy, it’s important to listen to your body and take breaks as needed to avoid illness when the thermometer is on the rise.

If you’re exercising outside in extreme heat, keep these tips in mind to exercise safely:

  1. Stay hydrated
  2. Dress appropriately
  3. Use sunscreen
  4. Be mindful of your fitness level
  5. Take it slow
  6. Watch your heart rate
  7. Avoid midday exercise
  8. Exercise indoors
  9. Keep medical conditions in mind

Related posts you are sure to find helpful:

9 Practical Health Tips to Help You Live the Best Life You Can

8 Steps to Make Healthy Habits Stick

Painless Ways to Burn Calories

Weight Loss Tips for Women Over 40

I hope you will use these tips to exercise safely when the temperatures are high.

Do you have another safety tip you want to add?

Feel free to share them in the comments below.

And be sure to share these exercise safety tips on social media.

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