The human body is a pretty incredible thing. Did you know that thanks to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, we have the capacity to keep cool naturally? Like, without blasting the AC? That’s right, our sweat glands, skin, and blood vessels work hard behind the scenes to keep our core temperature where it should be.
So what happens exactly? Our sweat glands bring our body’s water to the surface, producing sweat which evaporates on the skin, helping keep it cool. Our bodies are also working hard to ensure more blood is circulating through the skin, also helping to cool us down.
The only problem is, we’re left with less blood for our muscles, which increases our heart rate and places stress on our heart.
Now imagine all of this is happening inside of our bodies while we exercise in the heat. We are essentially making it twice as difficult for our body to regulate heat. And if our bodies fail at keeping internal temperatures where they should be, this can lead to heat-related illness, like heat cramps, exercise-related exhaustion, or even heat stroke.
If you enjoy exercising outdoors during the hot summer months, read on for tips on how to stay safe while exercising in the heat.
6 ways to play it safe in the heat
1. Exercise when it is cooler outside
Like in the early morning or evening. This one goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Avoid peak times if you are participating in outdoor sports, riding a bike, or doing yoga in the park.
2. Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing
So that your sweat can evaporate and cool your skin. If your clothing is interfering with your body’s natural cooling mechanism, its temperatures could become dangerously high and make you sick as a result.
3. Reduce your pace and intensity on days that are hotter or more humid
Even professional athletes know to tone it down on especially hot days, so remind yourself that this is not you admitting defeat. Instead, you are doing what it takes to keep your body strong and healthy.
4. Hydrate appropriately
In case you hadn’t figured it out already, the reason we need to stay hydrated in the heat is because our bodies are using our water stores to produce the sweat needed to keep us cool.
So be sure to pour yourself a tall glass of water 20 to 30 minutes prior to getting active, then replenish every 30 minutes until your workout is complete. And don’t forget to drink up post-activity!
Pro tip! Checking your sweat rate is a great way to see if you’re getting enough fluids. If you’re a hard-core athlete, you may want to try this formula. For everyone else: simply weigh yourself directly before and after a workout. If you’ve lost weight, it means you aren’t drinking enough water.
5. Monitor your heart rate.
Did you know? Your heart rate goes up by 10bpm each time your body’s temperature rises by just one degree. Considering the fact that your heart is already under an increased amount of stress when exercising in the heat, it makes sense to be mindful of your heart’s activity during a workout.
Using a wearable tech gadget, like FitBit or Apple Watch, is a simple way to monitor your heart rate.
6. Take more frequent breaks
It’s important to note that, when exercising in the heat, taking a breather has absolutely nothing to do with your physical endurance, and everything to do with your physiology. If you don’t give your body the opportunity to cool down, your organs will “stew” and could eventually shut down. So don’t play the hero – play it safe, and rest when you need to.
If you don’t like the idea of taking all these extra precautions before, during, and after a workout, you may need to consider switching things up during the hotter months. Below are a number of alternative ways to get active without overheating your body.
Alternative exercise options for hot weather
- Swim some laps. Keep cool while getting a hot workout.
- Join an indoor spin class. A huge calorie burner with a blast of AC to boot!
- Try indoor rock climbing. Bring your workout to new heights while keeping your core temperature down.
- Grab a paddle and hit the water. This is a great way to work out your upper body while taking advantage of cooler temperatures on the water.
- Get a gym membership. Splurge to save—your workout regimen, that is
If you love getting outdoors to get your workout in, just be sure to keep your body’s internal temperature down by following the tips in this post. It’s summer – give yourself permission to relax a little. Or, if slowing your pace and reducing your intensity isn’t your thing, consider the alternatives. You may end up finding a new activity that you love!