Exercising in the Heat - Adapting to the Elements

Outdoor Fitness is an all-season, all-climate workout program. Changing seasons offer new stimulation for your body, your mind, and your senses. The variety and fluctuation of the weather and seasonal changes keep you challenged, enhancing the pleasure of exercising outdoors.
 
We have a saying at Outdoor Fitness: There’s no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Since 1995, I’ve cancelled only two classes because of weather--one due to high winds and the other due to lightning. Outdoor Fitness is made for all seasons. However, all types of weather pose challenges and often hazards. In seasons that include severe weather—hot or cold temperatures, or high altitude—you’ll need to put your body through a period of adjustment, or acclimatizing, as you gradually help your body to grow accustomed to the conditions.
 
Exercise and Heat
Many people love the feeling of working out in hot weather. The sun, the sweat, and the gorgeous scenery all make outdoor workouts appealing in the summertime. There is plenty of fun to be had in the sun, provided you’re aware of the risks. Heat is the most dangerous element you face in exercising outdoors. As the temperature rises, your body must work harder to keep your core temperature cool. This causes your system to use up fluids quickly.  Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! This is your mantra during hot-weather exercise.
 
To exercise safely in hot weather, follow these guidelines:
•    Hydrate: Before and after a workout, drink 8-10 ounces of water. For workouts longer than 50-60 minutes carry water with you.
•    Dress to let your skin breathe: Wear reflective light or white colored, non-constrictive, breathable fabrics to maximize sweat evaporation: cottons and silks work, as do many synthetics and blends. Avoid non-breathable or rubberized garments
•    Protect your skin: Use sweat proof sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher
•    Wear sunglasses: Always wear UVA and UVB protected eyewear
•    Protect your head: Wear a sun visor or cap in bright colors to shield your face and eyes
•    Get out early: Exercise in the early morning before the intensity of the day’s heat. Even if it feels cooler at the end of the day, the ground will give off absorbed heat for hours
•    Go gradually: Acclimatize gradually by exercising before 10 a.m. for a 15-minute session, then build up to 60 minutes over 3-4 weeks.
 
Hot and Humid
Hot weather combined with high humidity poses particular risks for heat stress and heat stroke. Extra precautions are necessary to avoid illness and injury in steamy weather like this. Be cautious when temperatures rise above 76 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 percent humidity. If you are working out in hot, humid weather, give even more attention to hydration, making sure you drink cold water before, during and after your workouts. Know the warning signs for heat injuries, such as heat stress, heat stroke and sunstroke:
•    Muscle cramps
•    Skin rash
•    Lethargy
•    Irritability
•    Elevated heart rate
•    Headache
•    Dizziness
•    Nausea and vomiting
•    Hot, flushed and dry skin
•    Lack of perspiration
•    An altered state of consciousness, confusion or poor judgment

Tip - How hot is too hot? Temperature guidelines for hot-weather workouts
• 80°-84°F: There is little danger of heat stress if your body is hydrated and acclimatized. Use discretion if you’re not acclimatized or if you’re not conditioned for exercise.
• 85°-87°: Avoid strenuous activity in the sun. Take adequate rests during your workout. Replace fluids during your workout. You are at greater risk if you are not acclimatized or if you are heat sensitive.
• 88° and above: Unless you are well acclimated, cancel all exercise during the extreme heat of the day.
Source: The American College of Sports Medicine
 
Heat Index and Possible Disorders
• 130°F and above - Heatstroke and Sunstroke is highly likely with continued exposure.
• 105° - 130°F - Sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion is highly likely, and heat stroke is possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.
• 90° - 105°F - Sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion is possible with prolonged exposure and/or activity.
• 80° - 90°F - Fatigue possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.
Source  National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
 
Heat Disorders:  Symptoms and Treatments
• Heat Cramps - Painful spasms usually in muscles of legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating.   
Treatment: Apply firm pressure or gentle massage to cramping muscles, to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue.
• Heat Exhaustion - Heavy sweating, weakness, skin is cold, pale and clammy. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting.
Treatment: Get victim out of the sun. Lie them down and loosen clothing. Apply cool wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room.  Sips of water.  If nausea occurs, discontinue. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention.
• Heat/Sun Stroke - High body temperature (106°F, or higher).  Hot dry skin.  Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness.   
Treatment: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency.  Summon medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately.  Delay can be fatal.  

Source: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

 
 

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