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You’re jonesing for your regular run but it’s hot outside — like, heat advisory, bring the kids in to cool down a few times an afternoon, considering buying a plastic kiddie pool for yourself hot. What do you do? Stay inside or dare to sweat it out and exercise in the heat?
“Although summer outdoor workouts are fun, they can easily lead to heat-related issues if you’re not careful,” Dr. Cara Pensabene, MD, Medical Director, EHE Health, tells SheKnows.
So, before you head outside to exercise this summer, you may want to take a few things into consideration, according to our panel of experts.
Beware of humidity
According to Pensabene, humidity is more of a problem than temperature.
“That’s because high humidity prevents your sweat from evaporating,” she says. “If the air around is not cool or evaporating sweat doesn’t cool your body, your internal organs will overheat which can cause them to shut down.”
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For this reason, Pensabene says it’s best to avoid exercising outdoors if the temperature is 80 degrees or higher or if humidity is at 80 percent or above. So be sure to check out the humidity before heading out for a run or cycle.
Keep hydrated and stay cool
When it’s hotter outside, you sweat more. Which is why it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Grab your water bottle and keep it close!
“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can both occur while outside on hot days. Therefore, it is important to stay hydrated and stay cool ,” Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, family and emergency doctor, tells SheKnows. “It only takes minutes for anyone at any age to become symptomatic, which can be more severe in people with underlying health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.”
Adds Alissa Tucker, Master Trainer at AKT, “Staying hydrated doesn’t just mean drinking water during your workout. In fact, feeling thirsty during your workout is a sign that you’re already dehydrated.” She recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the day, before and after your workouts to ensure proper hydration.
“You may also want to add electrolytes or even a little lemon and sea salt to your water or sip a coconut water post-workout to help replenish the minerals that you sweat out during your outdoor workout.”
Schedule your workouts early or later in the day
Tucker recommends scheduling your outdoor workouts in the mornings or evenings to avoid working out in the hottest parts of the day. Johry Batt, of F45 Training Athletics, agrees. “Take note of the time of day and avoid working out in extreme heat, look for shade where possible and make sure you use sun protection, like sunscreen and a hat.”
Make your workouts short and sweet
“The best exercises to do outside in the heat are the ones that you can do relatively quickly so you’re not overexposed outside while your body is vulnerable,” Matt Kite, BS, CSCS, USAW-L1SP, Master Coach at D1 Training, tells SheKnows. “Consider doing bodyweight workouts or even kettlebell work in the heat — as long as you can still hold the weight with a solid grip.”
Kite recommends avoiding exercises that overexert like distance runs or long high-intensity circuits: “Keep your workout under 45 minutes and have shade nearby to recover between sets.”
Be mindful where you’re working out
Tucker says it’s important to be aware of the surface you’re working out on outdoors and the type of exercise you’re doing. For example, if you’re doing high-intensity workouts on concrete, she says, “You may want to modify the workout to eliminate some of the jumping as high impact on a hard surface can cause joint pain and potential injury. In addition, dance cardio in the grass or on an uneven surface can potentially lead to rolling an ankle.”
While she says that you can “absolutely” do cardio outdoors, it’s essential to listen to your body. “Wearing supportive shoes and never skipping the post-workout stretch and incorporating myofascial release into your workout recovery is also extremely helpful.”
Listen to your body
“It isn’t the workout itself that can put you at risk, but the duration of it,” Devan Kline, Co-Founder and CEO, Burn Boot Camp, tells SheKnows. “Overheating and dehydration are very real situations, so if you are working out for more than 45 minutes outside and aren’t listening to your body when it needs water or a break, you are putting yourself in danger. We always say to listen to your body and if you need to take a break because it’s hotter than you are used to, then take a break!”
Cooling down after a workout in the heat is a must. Batt suggests taking a plunge if you have access to a lake or a pool: “This is not only great for body temperature, but also for muscle recovery.” He also recommends passive stretches where you are holding a certain position for 15-40 seconds as a great way to cool down and recover, as well as lots of water.
“After a strenuous workout the heart rate returns to normal within 10- 20 minutes so take your time in the cooling down process as it is key to ensuring that enough blood gets to your lungs and muscles.”
A version of this story was published July 2020.
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