What You Need to Know When Exercising During the Summer

During the hazy days of long North Carolina summers, it seems like the only thing getting a workout is your air conditioner. Your favorite outdoor activities, from walking, biking, and hiking to pickup basketball and playing with the kids/pets in the backyard, become much more challenging. How do heat and humidity affect your body - and can you work up a good (healthy) sweat safely?

 

Exercising in the Summer: It’s the Heat and the Humidity! 

You know how it goes: you head out for your run or to play softball with your friends. Minutes later, you’re a hot, sweaty, panting puddle! Heat is one factor, and we know that high temperatures can make exercise more difficult. Your core body temperature rises, which can impact muscle endurance and decrease blood flow to the heart. Your heart rate also increases.

Dehydration is another issue: an athlete can lose 2-8% of their body weight during intense exercise. Even if you’re taking a walk, for example, you can lose a lot of fluid. Drinking water when you’re thirsty won’t make up for that loss.

Humidity adds to the problem. On a humid day, the air is loaded with moisture. When you sweat, it does not evaporate as quickly. Remember, the purpose of sweat is to cool you off. So, when you’re exercising on a 90° North Carolina day, you’ll sweat more, and it’ll stay on your body much longer. You’ll want to jump into the nearest pool, lake, stream, or shower!

So does this mean that you’re stuck working out indoors, paying for an expensive gym membership, or putting your goals on hold until fall? No! Just follow some simple precautions to ensure you’re able to exercise safely.

Tips for Safe Summer Exercise

1. Drink Water... All Day

Don’t just sip water when you’re working out. Keep a bottle handy and drink whenever you think of it throughout the day. This will prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Once you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends:

  • 9 cups (72 ounces) for women
  • 13 cups (104 ounces) for men
  • 10 cups (80 ounces) for pregnant women
  • 12 cups (96 ounces) for breastfeeding women

When it is hot and humid, add a few more cups to stay hydrated. 

If you don’t love water, try adding some fruit (lemon, lime, orange, frozen strawberries), cucumber slices, or mint. Water is best, but you can also add in unsweetened iced tea (again with fruit, if you like) to switch it up.

Take a water bottle with you on your runs, walks, and other activities to sip from. Do not guzzle during exercise as you can get cramps. Just small sips until you’re done!

2. Check the Heat Index

This will give you the “real feel” for the day. Humidity can make an 80° day feel like 85° or 90°. This is important because heat and humidity increase your heart rate as much as 10 beats per minute for temperatures of 75° - 90°. This is why we feel like we’re working so much harder. If the heat index is too high, consider exercising indoors or… 

3. Exercise During the Coolest Parts of the Day - and Take It Easy

Get your workout in early in the morning or wait until evening when temperatures are lowest. Also, remember to be kind to your body. It can take up to two weeks to acclimatize to the heat, so ease up at first. If you reduce intensity by about 25%, you won’t lose ground in terms of fitness, and you will be able to gradually increase your pace/intensity. 

4. Dress for the Weather 

It is best to wear loose, light-colored clothing for comfort. Avoid fabrics that trap moisture, like cotton (you’ll feel like you’re carrying five pounds of extra sweat weight!). Opt instead for moisture-wicking fabrics like bamboo, nylon, polyester, tencel, and spandex. 

5. Listen to Your Body 

You exercise to improve your health and stay as fit and mobile as possible. Don’t put yourself at risk by pushing when your body is saying, “NO!” If you feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous, please stop your workout. Cool down with a shower and slowly hydrate. You will do more harm by forcing your body to work in these conditions than you will by slowing down and/or taking the day off. You can get back at it tomorrow - following the tips we’ve given you. 

If the weather is just too hot and humid, turn on your AC or fan and do activity that your body can tolerate. Remember, you can and should reduce intensity as you get used to the heat and humidity. Do not feel “bad” because you normally do an hour of high-intensity interval training and you switched it up for an hour of yoga or a half-hour of lower-intensity cardio. You are still doing great things for your body (and mind!), and your continued progress will reflect that.

If you have any questions about staying fit this summer, give us a call! Kordonowy Chiropractic Center is here to help you beat the heat - and meet your goals!