How to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather
Every year I come to realize just a little bit more how important it is to know how to exercise safely in hot weather. I’ve known its importance to some degree for my entire life. Still, it isn’t until this particular time in my life that it has truly felt real, not just conceptual. So, as though there aren’t enough places sharing tips of this nature, I’m going to share my favorites here, in case it reaches someone and helps to save them from having something dangerous happen this summer.
Knowing How to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather
Taking steps to exercise safely in hot weather is important at any age. I remember watching a friend collapse from heat exhaustion when I was in my teens. I became very ill from the heat a few times when I was in my twenties. It was essentially incapacitating, but I brushed it off as “just the heat” assuming I’d recover when I rehydrated and cooled down.
It never really occurred to me how dangerous the heat is when you reach the level of even just feeling “off”. Wanting to remain physically active during a heatwave brings that risk to an entirely new level.
Yes, Exercise Can Be Done Safely in Hot Weather
That’s a bold statement. You can exercise safely in hot weather, but this doesn’t mean that you can do everything the same way you always have. When the mercury rises, you have to take extra precautions to keep yourself safe. This is especially true for people with certain health conditions, people already prone to heat stress, pregnant women, children and the elderly.
I wouldn’t call myself elderly quite yet (except at certain moments when I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself, or I want someone else to do an especially loathsome physical task…). I’m a senior, sure, but I fortunately have quite a way to go before I reach “elderly” status. Still, I know I’m affected by heatwaves differently than I once was.
Tips to Exercise Safely in Hot Weather
Very hot temperatures make the cardiovascular system work notably harder just to get us through our regular activities, let alone those we do to stay fit. So here are my tips to help make sure that I can still focus on fitness without putting my wellbeing in danger.
1 – Hydrate – Drink Water!
Stay hydrated and make a considerable priority of it. Always err to the side of overdoing it. If you’re not sure if you have enough water with you, bring more. I’ve found that those little hydration packs you can wear like a backpack keep my hands free, are very convenient, and also give me a place to put my keys and phone. They will hold a good amount of water for my walks or whatever else I’m out doing and they’re also handy to have for attending festivals and other outdoor events. Forget the sports drinks. They’re unnecessary. Water is what you need.
2 – Electrolytes
Like I said, don’t bother with sports drinks. They’re full of sugar and just aren’t good for you. If you’re worried about electrolytes, have a banana before heading out or bring one with you to snack. You’ll not only get sodium and potassium – important electrolytes – but fiber and lots of other great nutrients to nourish your body. Then, the water will definitely do the trick.
3 – Reduce Your Workout Intensity
Earlier, I mentioned that your cardiovascular system will already be working harder because of the heat. Since that’s the case, you don’t need as much intensity to reach a goal heart rate. Moreover, pushing yourself too hard can put yourself in danger. Instead, to exercise safely in hot weather, it’s best to risk doing a workout that is too easy than it is to risk pushing yourself too hard. Accommodate for the fact that you’ll have a higher heart rate already and that you’ll feel the exertion a lot more.
4 – Find Some AC
I greatly prefer outdoor workouts, but I admit that to be able to exercise safely in hot weather, sometimes it means heading in for some or all of my workout. Swimming or even an air-conditioned mall to walk around (particularly good just before opening or an hour before closing) are great options if you’re not a gym person.
5 – Pay Attention to Your Body
I actively check in with my body regularly to make sure there aren’t signs of heat illness that I haven’t noticed simply because I wasn’t paying attention. Since it can already be uncomfortable doing a workout in the heat, sometimes I don’t notice signs right away unless I specifically look for them. Signs to watch for include headache, excess sweating, dizziness, muscle cramping – this includes the stomach – confusion, severe fatigue, sickness, unusually high heart rate or unusually heavy breathing. If you notice any of those symptoms, take them seriously and either slow down or stop to cool down.
Don’t forget that just because you stop doesn’t mean you’re done. A great way to exercise safely in hot weather is to honor what your body is saying and stop when you should, even if it means starting again later on. You can do a short workout in the morning and one in the evening, instead of one long session.