Exercising Safely In Heat

by Lynn Bode

Summer is officially here - finally - providing the opportunity to spend more time enjoying outdoor activities. For many, this means more physical activities and playing sports. It's important to be aware of potential dangers that come with exercising in hot conditions. As long as you know the dos and don'ts of working out in the heat, you can take full advantage of all the fun summer offers.

What you should do:

Drink plenty of fluids

It's extremely important to stay hydrated. If you're thirsty, you are already dehydrated; drink before you feel a need to. Be sure to drink throughout the day (stick to non-caffeinated beverages, preferably water). Also, drink 15-20 minutes before beginning your workout and every 15 minutes throughout the exercise.

Eat regularly

The heat can decrease your appetite, but it's important to get sufficient nutrition. Try eating small meals 5-6 times per day. Include lots of fruits and vegetables; aside from being nutritious, fruits also tend to help with hydration.

Wear light, loose fitting clothes that can breath.

Cotton is always a good choice. If your outdoor activity produces a lot of perspiration, consider clothing that is designed to wick the sweat away.

Apply sunscreen

Even if you exercise early in the morning or late in the evening, anytime the sun is out you can burn. Not only is sunburn destructive to the skin and potentially dangerous, it also hinders your body's ability to stay cool.

Use common sense

Don't attempt strenuous activities that your body is not accustomed to. Stick to exercises that you are familiar and comfortable with.

Check the weather forecast

It's best not to participate in intense outdoor exercise sessions when the heat index registers in the dangerous zone.

What you should not do:

Don't try to diet by sweating

Excessive perspiration is not the key to permanent weight loss. Any decrease in the scale would simply be a result of water loss, not fat reduction.

Don't adapt the "no pain, no gain" motto

Ignoring your body's signals could be dangerous. Heat-related illnesses come with warning signs. Be sure to learn how to recognize them and what actions to take.

Don't forget to drink plenty of liquid when swimming.

Just because your body is surrounded by water does not mean that you are well-hydrated. As with any land exercises, you need to regularly replenish lost fluids when in the pool.

Avoid physical activity during the hottest part of the day
This is usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Acclimate yourself

If you want (or need) to be working in very hot temperatures, don't do it until you become acclimated. Try to spend only a few minutes per day in the hot conditions for the first couple of weeks and then gradually increase the time each day.

Avoid extreme changes in temperature

Don't hop from being extremely hot and sweating excessively right into an ice cold, air-conditioned environment. Try to cool your body down slightly before exposing it to the extreme temperature variation.

Whether you work outdoors or exercise outdoors for enjoyment, following the above tips will help you stay cool and safe during the dog days of summer. So, get out there and have some fun!

Lynn Bode is a certified personal trainer specializing in Internet-based fitness programs. She founded Workouts For You, which provides affordable online exercise programs that are custom designed for each individual. Visit: http://www.workoutsforyou.com for a free sample workout. Fitness professionals take your business online, visit: http://www.trainerforce.com

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