The dog days of summer are fast upon us, and for many Wisconsin natives who have survived yet another long winter, there is no better time to take our workout outdoors than now. While it’s easy to just head out there and get after it, it’s also important to take a few steps in planning ahead. The summer heat can bring unwanted problems; the dangers of heat-related injuries are real and can even become life-threatening. Follow these simple tips to stay safe while you enjoy your summer workouts:
- Time of day is very important. Avoid exercising outdoors during the day, in particular between the hours of 10am-4pm, when the temperatures tend to be at their highest. Generally, early morning is the best time to work out, especially if the forecast calls for high temperatures and humidity. As a word of caution, remember to wear reflective clothing and shoes to stay visible before or after daylight hours.
- Acclimate your body. Take some time to let your body get used to the heat and humidity of summer weather. It can take up to 14 days to adjust to temperature changes, so be willing to engage in lighter intensity and shorter duration workouts while your body is getting used to the heat.
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing. Heat needs to dissipate as efficiently from your body as possible, and loose, light-colored clothing (which also helps to reflect heat) is the best way to ensure this will happen. The moisture-wicking material of hi-tech, dri-fit shirts are the best choice to help absorb sweat and keep your body cool during your workout.
- Sunscreen is a MUST. Sunscreen isn’t just for protecting your skin against sunburn. It also acts as a reflecting agent for the sun’s heat on your body, which helps regulate body temperature and ward off heat-related injuries.
- Stay hydrated. The recommendation to drink 64 oz. of water per day is becoming outdated, especially if you are active in the heat and humidity. There are a lot of different theories on hydration, but the Institute of Medicine recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces, plus an extra 12-16 oz. for every hour that you are active in the heat. This isn’t to say you should make a drastic increase in your water intake immediately; rather, increase the amount slowly, until you are comfortable consuming that much water in one day. Consuming too much water can be a health risk also, so take it slow.
- Keep it indoors. If it’s just too hot outside to exercise safely, consider keeping your workout indoors in a climate-controlled environment. It’s not worth the risk, and let’s face it, it’s not much fun exercising outdoors when it’s that hot!
As with anything that involves exercise and healthy activity, use common sense out there. If you feel light-headed, faint, or otherwise impaired, get indoors immediately and take the proper precautions to recover safely. Call your doctor or medical care professional if conditions do not improve. Summer weather should not only be enjoyed by those who want to be active outdoors, it should be respected too!