by Morgan Jackson
Am I the only one who practically melted just standing there outside the past few days? As a personal trainer and coach here in NYC I frequently get asked: “Is it dangerous to exercise in the heat?” In a word, yes, but…no. The truth is that if you don’t have any serious medical conditions you are probably just fine sticking to your normal outdoor regimen, but only provided the below:
Hydration doesn’t just mean drinking.
How much? Most of the general population underestimate the amount of fluids they need to drink to sustain physical activity in the heat. Dehydration, especially in hot, humid environments, can increase core body temperature, reduce cardiac output, decrease blood flow to muscles, and increase the risk of heatstroke. It is critical to get approximately 16 to 24 ounces of water before exercise, an additional 8 ounces for every 20 minutes of exercise, and approximately 24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost at the conclusion of the exercise.
And what exactly? In addition, many people don’t drink the appropriate fluids for optimal performance in hot and humid conditions. Consume a sports drink containing key electrolytes (sodium, chloride, and potassium) and carbohydrates, in order to replenish muscle glycogen and the electrolytes lost through sweat. Also, avoid caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee and soda) which act a diuretics and can be dehydrating.
Don’t just jump outside.
In addition to staying well hydrated, try to schedule workouts or recreational activities at times during the day when heat and humidity are lowest. High humidity is particularly dangerous because it counteracts the benefits of evaporative cooling, a.k.a. sweat drying. Early-morning and late-evening allow for physical activity while avoiding the brutal, sunny conditions around midday.
And…well…don’t be a dummy.
Finally, be sure to watch out for warning signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. If at any point you experience muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, or lightheadedness, do not ignore the symptoms. (Guys, I am talking to you specifically.) Stop exercising immediately, find a way to lower your core body temperature, and get fluids as soon as possible. Heat-related illness is very preventable; however, in the event that you start to recognize any of these symptoms, do not try to grind through it. Shut it down and save the workout for another day.