With steadily warming temperatures and more hours of sunlight, summer days simply call to us to go outside. But it's important to keep some precautions in mind when you're working up a sweat in the summer heat.
Fitness experts agree that the first step is to moderate the intensity of any strenuous activity – whether you’re just out having fun or engaging in a formal workout. "Increase your exposure to heat slowly, particularly if you live in a part of the country where it's hot and humid," suggests Melissa Johnson, Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
"Start out with a 30-minute routine. If the heat still feels like too much, break up your workout into two 15-minute intervals," says Johnson, "so you can ensure that your body won't get overheated."
"As you work out, you will build more tolerance to the heat," explains Meg Jordan, PhD, RN, editor in chief of American Fitness Magazine, the official magazine of the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America. "Your body will acclimate to the heat in terms of sweating more, opening more pores, and the sweat evaporating to cool you off."
Here are some other tips to keep in mind when moving around during the summer months:
Stay hydrated. "Drink water before and after you work out," says Johnson. If you plan to be active for more than an hour and a half, bring water with you and drink it. Also, afterward, try a sports drink to replace electrolytes and glucose. "Keep in mind that thirst is not always a good indicator of hydration," says Jordan, so drink enough fluid to bring your body weight back to pre-exercise levels.
Sweat during off hours. Try activities during the cooler parts of the day, suggests Johnson. Because there are more hours of sunlight, evenings are more doable.
Dress to breathe. "Wear permeable clothing that allows for the evaporation of sweat," says Jordan. These fabrics are usually made from natural fibres and wick away moisture from the body. "Also wear light colours because they reflect the sun's heat," adds Johnson.
Slather on the SPF. Don't forget to apply a layer of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) lotion — 25 or greater — to all exposed areas before heading outside. And don't let an overcast sky fool you; ultraviolet rays are still powerful on a cloudy day.
Keep your feet cool. "To keep feet comfortable, invest in a pair of walking or running shoes with adequate ventilation," suggests Jordan. Look for sneakers with an upper made from a breathable material like mesh.
Listen to your body. "When you're feeling dizzy or nauseous, it could be symptoms of heat-related illness," explains Johnson. "Stop and rest if you need to."