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.


Stay Hydrated With Fruits & Vegetables

Photo Credit: Steve Evans CC-BY-2.0
When the summer heat soars into the scorching range, it is critical that you keep your body hydrated. Drinking water will keep your body hydrated so that you can reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sports drinks can be a good choice to keep you hydrated, too. Many sports drinks contain minerals and salts that replenish the minerals and salts lost when you sweat. Sports drinks can help restore electrolyte balance as well. However, did you know that some fruits and vegetables may actually hydrate your body better than drinking a glass of water? Some fruits and vegetables can be as much as 90 percent or more water. Add some extra fruits and vegetables to your diet during hot weather to help you stay hydrated. You will also benefit from the extra vitamins and minerals. One study by the University of Aberdeen Medical School found that some fruits and vegetables hydrate the body twice as well as water or even sports drinks. 

Cantaloupe, strawberries and peaches are high in water content but also contain potassium that is essential to heart health. Potassium helps to regulate the heartbeat. When you sweat, you lose valuable potassium that can only be replaced by eating potassium-rich foods or taking a supplement. Pineapples and cherries contain melatonin and other micronutrients that help to reduce inflammation in the body. They are high in water content too. Watermelon, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and kiwi are all high in vitamin C. Cucumbers are 96 percent water but also contain minerals and vitamins, including calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Celery also contains all these minerals plus phosphorus, zinc and iron, which are essential to bone and blood health. 

The next time you exercise outdoors, pack plenty of bottles of water and take along a container of fresh fruits and vegetables to help hydrate your body.