Safety Tips for Exercising in the Heat

By on June 25, 2014

One year when I was a teenager, I had spent a few weeks of my summer vacation in tennis camp.

I really loved it too!

In fact, one of my closest childhood friends attended the camp with me – which only made it that much better.

The only negative incident to be had throughout the entire experience, however, had to do with the fact that during my first day of camp I became lightheaded and dizzy; and as a result, I almost fainted.

The reason this happened was because I wasn’t used to spending a full day exercising in the heat…and my body didn’t hesitate to let me know.

I had to stop playing tennis and sit the rest of the day out…watching everyone else have fun.

While that was a bummer, and I felt a little embarrassed…the whole thing taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of making sure we take certain safety precautions when it comes to exercising in the heat.

And because I took the situation seriously and made sure I was prepared from then on out, I was able to enjoy the rest of the summer without further incident.

Exercising in the Heat

My experience as compared to others I’ve heard about was pretty mild.

Believe it or not, exercising in the heat can be fatal if you aren’t prepared – and there have been reports of such fatalities more often than we may realize.

Engaging in physical activity when it’s hot out is pretty common practice whether you’re involved in sports or simply taking outdoor fitness classes.

And while this is perfectly fine and can be a lot of fun, it’s important to understand that there are some safety precautions that if implemented, can mean the difference between a harmless experience, or one that causes damage.

So in an effort to help you avoid unnecessary injury or complications in your outdoor fitness routine, here are a few tips that will help you to stay safe while still having a great time.

Tip 1 – Slowly Acclimate Yourself to Exercising in the Heat

If you aren’t used to working out in extreme temperatures, it’s a good idea to ease your way into doing so.

A few easy ways to do this are:

  1. Start doing low intensity exercises such as walking while gradually increasing the length and intensity of each walk.
  2. Try to get your workouts in either early in the morning or in the early part of the evening when the sun isn’t as intense.
  3. Start to incorporate a few exercises outdoors during your regular indoor workout to get used to the heat. For example, if you do a triplex (a block of three exercises), start doing two of the three exercises indoors and do one outdoors. Once you have become acclimated to this, switch to doing one indoors and two outdoors.
  4. If you are new to exercise in general, consider swimming/doing water exercises. It’s a great way to get a work out in while keeping cool at the same time.

By deliberately easing your way into more extreme climates, you’ll reduce your risk of heat related injuries (such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke) while making the experience far more enjoyable.

Tip 2 – Stay Hydrated

Considering that the majority of our diets are made up of processed foods, in combination with our infatuation with coffee (which acts as a diuretic), the truth is that these behaviors can and do lead to dehydration.

This condition only intensifies when you add exercise into the mix – especially in extreme heat.

To avoid this, some easy to follow guidelines are:

  • Drink 16 oz of water approximately one hour or less prior to exercise.
  • Drink water throughout your workout as needed.
  • Replenish with at least another 16 oz of water after exercise.

Wear cool and comfortable clothing when working out in the heat and make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables since they contain water as well.

Tip 3 – Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable

While it isn’t wise to exercise on an empty stomach in general, it’s especially important to keep your energy levels up when you’re working out in extreme heat by making sure you have something in your system to properly fuel your workout.

Your best bet is to refrain from consuming anything heavy and instead, focus on light foods that are easy to digest (click here for some ideas).

This simple practice can mean the difference between a successful outdoor workout or one that results in injury and/or possible loss of consciousness.

Being Mindful

The tips mentioned here are just a few ways in which you can incorporate mindful behaviors before engaging in any strenuous activities in the heat.

As mentioned earlier, I have personally experienced the ill effects of being unprepared for exercising outdoors in the summertime.

While the consequences I endured were mild and forgiving, they don’t always work out that way for others…

…and this is why a little planning will go a long way.

 Have you had any close calls while exercising in the heat?

About Dana Gore

Author of the book A Simple Guide to Exercise Safety (What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You), Dana Gore completed the curriculum at Fitness Institute International, Inc. as an outstanding graduate in 2009.

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