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Exercising in the Heat

As I write this here in Florida in September, it's over ninety degrees outside, with humidity levels to match. We'll be seeing mostly more of the same for another month or two. While those of you living in more northerly climes are probably starting to enjoy the first cool breezes of autumn, summer will return with both its benefits and dangers next year, so this is a great time to make sure you know how to exercise safely in the heat.


The first rule of exercising in hot weather is to drink plenty of fluids. The common wisdom is that if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. While that philosophy has received some criticism from some experts lately, no one can dispute the fact that one needs to drink non-caffeinated beverages (caffeine dehydrates) regularly throughout the exercise workout. If your workout takes you into the water, you still need to follow the same rules. Frequently, being surrounded by water causes people to think they're more well-hydrated than they actually are.

Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing that breathes. Be aware that cotton will not dry as quickly as today's high tech synthetic fabrics that are made to wick away sweat. If you do wear cotton, don't jump from a hot, sweaty outside environment into an ice cold air conditioned environment. Cool down slowly.

Wear sunscreen if you'll be in the sun for extended periods of time. While short periods of sun exposure appear to be beneficial, getting a sunburn will definitely ruin your workout.

Check the weather forecast. If the heat index will be registering in the danger zone, you should probably forgo intense outdoor exercise sessions till the temperature moderates, unless you can schedule them in the early morning.


Don't ignore your body's signals. Be aware of the signs of heat-related illness, such as muscle cramps, headache, dizziness or nausea. Stop exercising immediately if you begin to suffer any of these symptoms, and get out of the sun and into the shade, where you can drink water. Do not drink alcohol or coffee. If the symptoms persist after 30 minutes, seek medical attention.

Don't try to lose weight by sweating, especially by donning plastic suits. You cannot sweat off fat. Any weight lost will be water weight, which will make you no thinner and which will come back as soon as you drink.

Try to avoid exercise between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM, which is the hottest part of the day. If you must work out between these hours, then acclimate yourself by working up slowly. Just because you can jog or run five miles at 7 AM doesn't mean you should do it at 11 AM. Learn from my personal experience :-)

Follow the above advice and stay safe during the dog days of summer. You can get out and have fun in the sun - just do it wisely!

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