Q: Are there any benefits to working out in summer heat?
A: When you expose yourself to heat, it builds your heat tolerance. When you age, your body isn’t able to regulate heat as well, so being out in high temperatures is typically more dangerous for someone who is older. But if you exercise in heat, it decreases the chance for you to lose tolerance as you age.
Q: So sweating it out outside does have some benefits! What are some risks that can go along with an outdoor summer workout?
A: If someone is not paying attention to what their body is telling them, then they probably will experience some very negative side effects of working out in the heat. Dehydration and cramps are definite possibilities, but also beware of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion, you’ll feel very weak. You’ll have a rapid pulse, low blood pressure, a headache, nausea, dizziness, paleness, cold and clammy skin, profuse sweating, and an elevated core temperature. A lot of people probably aren’t going to notice a weak pulse or low blood pressure, so I would recommend people look out for cold and clammy skin, paleness, or nausea. You’ll want to get to a place where you can cool down as quickly as possible and drink plenty of fluids.
With heat stroke, it’s a little different. It’s past the heat exhaustion phase. You’ll have several of the same symptoms, but also hot, dry, and light-colored skin, a rapid and strong pulse, labored breathing, and an even more elevated body core temperature – 104 degrees or greater. Whenever that’s happening or you see someone who it’s happening to, get them to a cool place immediately and call 911. Remove as much of their clothing as you can to help them cool down, cover them with wet towels and ice packs, and use a fan to blow air on them. They’ll need to be taken to the emergency room for evaluation.
Q: What sorts of preparations should you make beforehand to ensure you’re not a victim of either of these negative side effects?
A: The main thing is to be sure you’re drinking enough liquids, especially water, beforehand – even the day before you plan on working out outside – because you’ll be at increased risk for dehydration. A recommendation by the National Strength and Conditioning Association is for people to drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercising. Then 10 to 20 minutes before exercise, they should drink seven to 10 ounces of water. On top of that, I recommend checking the hottest times of the day and avoiding those times. You can look up each day’s heat index online.
You should also gradually expose yourself to working out in the heat. Slowly starting to work out in the heat is very important. And make sure you have a cold water bottle to drink and light-colored clothing to wear. Clothes with sweat-wicking material will help you cool down and ventilate the heat better.
Q: If you choose to work out outside, what types of exercises are best?
A: I personally like to do the same things I do inside. Running, walking, and even weightlifting are all options. Just be wary of hot equipment like metal or pavement. Do what works best for you and what your body can handle. Working out in heat will have a different effect on everyone – just because your friend does it, doesn’t mean you can or should. My top advice is just to opt for shady areas when you can, allow yourself more time to recover, and be sure to replenish lost electrolytes by drinking and eating afterward.