Outdoor Summer Exercise: Avoid Heat Related Illness

Photo Credit: Bibikoff CC-BY-2.0

Summer is just around the corner! Warm weather draws people out of the indoors and into the sunshine. Exercising outdoors can be enjoyable, but don’t let heat cause you injury or illness. Exercising in high summer temperatures requires that you take a few extra precautions. You can avoid heat-related illness by exercising outdoors in the morning or evening before the day heats up. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Wear loose fitting clothing that does not trap heat. Stop exercising if you experience any symptoms of heat-related illness.

Your body temperature increases when you are exposed to high summer temperatures. Exercising increases your body temperature, too. To cool down, your body sends more blood to your skin, which leaves less blood available for your muscles. Exercise increases your heart rate. To compensate for less blood flow to your muscles when you exercise, your heart rate increases. High humidity prevents your sweat from evaporating, which increases your body temperature even more. You see how you can push your body into a heat spiral that can leave you suffering heat cramps to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke?

Pay attention to your body and learn to recognize the warning signs of heat-related illness. Heat cramps are muscle contractions that typically affect your legs and your abdominal muscles. You may experience heat cramps, even if your body temperature is normal. Heat exhaustion is evidence by a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheight (40 degrees C) accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache and clammy skin. Heat exhaustion is a serious medical condition and must be treated right away or you could suffer heat stroke. Heat stroke is life threatening. You could suffer brain and organ damage. You can die as a result of heat stroke.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience muscle cramps, vomiting or nausea, confusion or dizziness. Stop exercising immediately and take steps to hydrate and cool your body. Drink water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes, remove excess clothing and pour water over your body and fan yourself to cool down.


Exercise For Your Mind & Body

Photo Credit: Scott Meltzer PD

Regular exercise, combined with a healthy, nutritious diet, can help keep your body  strong, lean and fit. Did you know that exercise is also good for your mental health? Exercise and a fit body helps improve your self-esteem, your confidence and can help you feel more in control of your life. People who exercise on a regular basis are less prone to suffer from anxiety, depression and they handle stress better than people who do not exercise regularly. Sometimes it’s difficult to get up and start exercising when you feel anxious or depressed., but you will feel better almost as soon as you start exercising. During exercise, the brain releases endorphins that help reduce pain and promote a feeling of well-being. Depression is a serious illness that affects millions of people. Exercise alone is not a quick-fix for depression, but it can help you deal with your symptoms. Once you get your depression symptoms under control, exercise may help prevent depression symptoms from returning. Follow your doctor’s advice about medication, lifestyle changes and exercise. How can you get started with exercise if you are or have been depressed or feeling anxious? It’s easier than you think.
Begin slowly. If you have been sedentary for years and rarely exercised, see your doctor for a physical checkup before beginning an exercise regimen. Once your doctor clears you for exercise, gradually increase your physical activity until you can do 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Forget trying to run a marathon after your first week. Set realistic goals and build on your increasing strength and endurance. Start by walking 10 to 15 minutes every other day and increase by a few minutes every week until you can walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes. You can walk outdoors in your neighborhood, in a park or at the gym on a treadmill. It doesn’t matter where you walk, just as long as you do it. As you begin to get more fit, lose weight and get stronger, you will start to feel better both physically and mentally. 

For more information about exercise and depression, see: