In order to reap the most benefits from physical activity, you should exercise frequently and year-round. Neither winter snow nor summer heat should be deterrents to getting your recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. When the mercury rises during summer heat waves, it’s usually safer to bring your workout indoors to minimize the risk of dangers like heat stroke and sunburn. However, an outdoor workout can be just as safe and effective if you follow some simple rules for beating the heat:
- Always wear sunscreen – and lipbalm – with an SPF of 15 or higher, even if it doesn’t look too sunny out (many sunburns occur on hazy days).
- Avoid outdoor activity between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. The sun’s rays are strongest, and the temperatures are highest, during these hours. Try and schedule outdoor runs and other activities for the early morning or evening.
- Increase outdoor activities gradually. Don’t jump right into training for a marathon on the hottest day of the year.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Although cotton is best for everyday activities, special wicking fabrics like polypropylene, COOLMAX®, and SUPPLEX® help draw moisture away from the skin during exercise.
- Hydrate constantly. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially those with a high water content (zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, watermelon, apples, grapes). Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, and make sure to drink at least 96 ounces of water on days when the temperature is greater than 90°.
Hydration is probably the most crucial aspect of safe summer exercise. However, hydration is most effective when it’s done correctly. You should abide by the following hydration schedule when exercising, especially in the summer heat:
- 32 oz. of water 1-2 hours before exercise
- 24 oz. of water 10-15 minutes before exercise
- 4 oz. of water every 20 minutes during exercise
For activity that lasts less than an hour, plain old water is sufficient. For any strenuous activity that lasts more than an hour, drinks containing electrolytes, such as sports drinks or coconut water, are best in order to ensure a proper fluid balance. These beverages, however, are not necessary for short bursts of exercise and can actually add hundreds of extra (and unnecessary) calories to your diet, so they should only be consumed during long, intense workouts.
Make sure you drink enough water before, during, and after your workout, and listen to your body for clues: if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Your body can provide you with a lot of helpful insight as to when it’s time to rehydrate or head inside for cooler climates. If you listen to your body and follow a few simple steps, you’ll be able to get the most benefit – and least risk – out of your workouts this summer.