Avoid Heat Stress This Summer

Increasing temperatures, raging waves of humidity, and national heat waves can all result in heat stress and heat-related injuries. As the weather warms up during the summer months, it is especially important to be aware of your internal, and external, temperature gauge! Fun in the sun may become short lived if you do not prepare yourself for any activities outdoors that take place for extended periods of time.

Not only does the sun contribute to heat, but general humidity conditions and changing temperatures can have a significant impact on your body’s natural rhythms and core temperature. In order to stay functioning and healthy, you do need to take some extra measures that will prevent heat stress. Heat stress when exercising is a common occurrence, especially for those who may be out of shape, the elderly, very young children, and others who are sensitive to temperature changes. Learn to read your body’s signals, and slow down when you need to. Here are some additional measures to ensure that you don’t suffer from heat stress while exercising, or enjoying the outdoors this summer:

  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t guzzle it all at once, but instead sip it generously throughout the day to make sure there is enough water going through your system continually. Water deprivation can lead to muscle injuries, fuzzy thinking, and of course dehydration. As the intensity of your exercise increases, be sure to drink water at least every 15 minutes.
  • Let your body adjust to temperatures naturally. Try to avoid going from extreme cold (think air conditioning) to blasting hot (think outdoor humidity) rapidly. Instead, take time to slowly move towards warmer or cooler surroundings to avoid ‘shock.’ Heat stress and heat stress-related injuries become more pronounced if you keep changing temperatures and environments.
  • Wear light clothing. Whenever you are exercising for extended periods of time, or even out running errands, be sure to wear clothing that allows your skin and body to breathe. It’s essential that your clothing be comfortable, preferably made of cotton, breathable lycra, or linen.
  • Wear a hat! A hat, especially a large-brimmed style, can make a considerable difference to the heat that you absorb. It doesn’t need to be heavy, and even a visor style can help protect your face. Heat stress can be minimized significantly with this simple step.
  • Wear sunscreen. Especially when you are exercising outdoors, sunscreen will simply ‘sweat off’ you; be sure to apply it thoroughly and regularly.
  • Go easy on yourself! Don’t overdo or overtax your body’s energy supply, especially when out in the sun. You do need to maximize your output from your workout or exercise, but do limit over-stressing your body; recovery and rest are just as important in the summer, and will make sure that your risk of heat stress is minimal.
  • Learn to listen to your body; any signs or indications of excessive sweating, nausea, goose bumps, tightening muscles, or numbing should be warnings of heat stress. Make sure you stop what you are doing and head indoors; drink plenty of water, and cool down naturally.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Although you won’t be consuming these while exercising, it’s important to reduce or eliminate these before and after your workouts. Your body needs to recover and rest during these times, and it is essential that it stays well hydrated during the process. Both caffeine and alcohol rapidly deplete the body of essential nutrients and water.
  • Do make sure to sweat it out when you sweat! It’s important that moisture evaporates from your skin, and doesn’t ‘stick’ on you. You’ll not only be uncomfortable, but it will make it difficult for you get the best of your workout or exercise session.
  • Change your routine. This may mean getting up before sunrise to exercise, or waiting until later in the evening. It may also be easier to simply workout indoors until any heat waves pass.

The increasing heat and changing temperatures don’t have to stop you from enjoying summer in the slightest; take good care of your health, and you’ll be able to spend plenty of time outdoors and take part in the joys of outdoor exercise and workouts. Think of alternative exercises you can do indoors on days when the heat warnings are at all-time highs; you’ll reduce your risk of heat stress greatly, and can look forward to a better day later in the week.

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