Step Forwards

Exercising in the Heat

For me exercise is more than a way to keep my body in shape.  It is a happy place, a way to combat stress and depression, promote endorphins and allow myself some self-care time. Consequently, taking a month off of exercise for the hot weather is not an answer, I need to find a way to continue to work out, even in a heat wave.

Why is Exercising in Heat so Dangerous?

Ok, so you get more tired and sweatier than at other times of the year, but if you can put up with this why is it so dangerous to exercise in the heat?

When you get hot, the body diverts blood away from the muscles to circulate through the skin. It helps keep you cool and explains why you go red.  If you exercise in the heat this process puts your body under strain as the lack of blood in the muscles causes your heart rate to increase. In the case of high humidity, your body is put under even more strain as sweat, which is a part of the bodies cooling system, cannot evaporate and stays on your skin, which increases your body temperature further.

Some things that over heating can cause include heat cramps, light-headedness or fainting, heat exhaustion and if this is left untreated, heatstroke.

What Do I Look Out For?

Some of the warning signs that you are struggling with heat are similar to normal reactions to exercise, so whilst you should take every care to look after yourself and spot these symptoms as soon as possible, a normal amount of perspiration and tiredness through exercise is perfectly normal and just shows that you are working, and being confused by a new routine, or irritated that you can’t master a step, is definitely not indicative of heat exhaustion!

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate (above what is normal for you whilst exercising)
  • Visual problems

So, What Do I Do?

You of course have the option of opting out of exercise through the hot weather, and a reasonable instructor would cancel a class if they felt it unsafe to teach. However, a lot of people want to continue to exercise. These are some things to consider when exercising in hot weather.  Remember none of these are as good advice as listening to your own body and taking care of yourself.

  • Pick Your Time – check the weather.  If you usually go for a midday walk when it is going to be 30 degrees, maybe consider a 7am walk when it is only 20 degrees. If you train heavily, check the weather and plan your workout split around the cooler days, use hotter days as rest days.
  • Acclimatise – you will, over time, adjust to hot weather, so start slowly and increase your activity levels as your body gets used to it.
  • Drink Fluids – not 5 glasses of Pimms! Drink water and consider a sodium replacement drink such as a sports drink or a drink for diarrhea.
  • Sodium – the body loses sodium through sweating, and cannot replace it naturally. Sodium is needed in the body to balance water, so if you find you are craving crisps, your body is asking for a sodium hit.
  • Dress Appropriately – lose clothes, light colours, shorts not joggers!
  • Wear Suncream
  • Have a Back-up Plan – if you can’t walk outside, walk inside an air-conditioned shopping centre. Use an air-conditioned gym instead of home equipment. Swim instead of your normal aerobic exercise.
  • Know your own medical risks

A bit of planning and organisation can mean that you can continue to exercise in heat and do so safely. But keep listening to your body. It really does know best.


1 thought on “Exercising in the Heat”

  1. Mrs Hazel Wright

    Great blog. Pretty sure, from that list of symptoms of heat exhaustion, that a lot of people suffered from a bit of that last week – even without the exercise!

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