Summer is prime time for exercising. We love being out of doors when it’s warm and the days are long, and there are so many fun, active things to do that exercise is more play than work. Summertime does bring some exercise hazards, though. Here are some tips for safe summer exercise.
• The most important thing to remember for summer exercise is to stay hydrated. You need more water when it is hot outside and you are sweating, so keep on drinking. Drink a couple of glasses of water before and after any outdoor summer activity, and a glass every 20-60 minutes throughout the activity.
• If you’re sweating a lot and exercising for more than an hour or two, drink an electrolyte-containing sports drink instead of water. Excess sweating causes you to lose salt along with water; replacing fluids with plain water can cause an imbalance known as water intoxication.
• Use sunblock. And sunglasses. And maybe a hat. Chronic and frequent sun exposure increases your risk of getting skin cancer by an order of magnitude; protect yourself from sun damage. The sun can damage your eyes and hair, too.
• Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable, loose, light colored, cool clothes that are appropriate for your activity, and good shoes.
• Protect yourself from insects and other critters. Use an insect repellant and wear the right clothes for your activity. Hiking in the woods means sturdy shoes or boots, long pants and maybe even long sleeves. Think snakes and spiders and ticks and West Nile disease.
• Don’t exercise in high traffic areas or areas where the air is heavily polluted.
• Start out slowly and increase your exercise gradually. If it’s very hot or humid, you may hit your target heart rate at a lower level of exercise than normal. Listen to your body and adjust your level of exercise accordingly.
• Don’t exercise outside during the hottest hours of the day or when the humidity is very high. High humidity keeps you from sweating effectively, and can lead to heat stroke.
• Speaking of which, be aware of the signs of heat stroke and stop exercising if you don’t feel well. Drink extra water and try to find some water to cool off with. The signs of heat stroke include:
– Nausea and vomiting
– Dizziness and weakness
– Muscle cramps
– Feeling clumsy or stumbling
– Increased heart rate
– Confusion, disorientation or loss of consciousness
– Hot dry skin
– Cessation of sweating
• Move it indoors. If the weather is unsuitable for outdoor exercise, don’t stop. Go inside. Walk around the mall, do an exercise video, go to the gym. Find somewhere climate-controlled for your exercise.
• Exercise in water. It’s a great way to stay cool, and water provides more resistance than air. Swimming, water skiing, water walking or just playing are good ways to get a workout and stay cool.