Beat the Heat: Workout Safety Tips, Part 1

Posted by Craig Trinkley

Summertime is in full swing and when it comes to exercise, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to change up your habits a bit so that you don’t risk heat-related illness. Outdoor exercise, as you know, can get challenging when those temperatures start to rise. However, you can do things to stay safe, healthy, and of course, moving forward with your fitness plan.

But before we dive into this several-part series on heat and exercise, it’s important to know just how heat can affect our bodies when we exercise. So, to begin, let’s talk about what hot weather can do to the body when you’re trying to get in a workout.

Exercise is a key part to staying healthy, but as we all know, it can put stress on the body. Most of this is good stress (the kind that builds muscle, endurance, and strength), however there is some stress that can put your body at risk. This stress lies mostly in the heart and lungs.

When a healthy person exercises, he or she is exercising the heart and lungs just like any other part of the body. As a result, the heart and lungs become stronger and begin to perform better. However, in hot weather, there’s even more stress put onto the heart and lungs. You see, as you exercise, there’s an increase in body temperature, caused by the combination of movement and from the air temperature. To cool your body down, more blood will begin to circulate through your skin. But when this happens, it actually leaves less blood for the muscles, causing your heart rate to go up.

If the humidity is high, there’s also even more stress. Under high humidity conditions, it becomes harder for sweat to evaporate. Sweat is designed to help you cool down your body during exercise. Without the evaporation, that body temperature gets driven even higher. Now, factor in other body temperature issues like hydration and you’ve got a situation that needs to be controlled in order to stay safe.

Dangerously high body temperatures can mean a lot of things in term of heat-related illness. In most cases, heat-related illnesses usually come in the form of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke – all dangerous conditions.

If you experience weakness, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, or difficulty breathing, stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. Drink water and wet and fan your skin to try to bring down the temperature. If you’re not feeling better within an hour or if symptoms get worse, contact your doctor immediately.

In our next post, we’ll talk about ways to exercise safer in the heat. Stay tuned!

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