Texas is breaking all-time high heat records this year. It’s critical to stay hydrated. Here are some tips to keep you healthy and safe while performing physical activities outside.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Both exercise and hot weather increases your core body temperature. When mixing the two, exercise caution. Your body cools itself by sweating, but cooling down is harder in humid weather because perspiration doesn’t evaporate as quickly from your skin. Your heart rate rises as your body works hard to keep its cool.
It’s important to check the weather before doing workouts outside, like running or playing basketball. If the temperature or humidity is high, consider scaling back your workout. A workout that feels easy on a temperate day can be dangerously intense on a hot, humid afternoon. Respect your body and your own limitations. People with larger bodies, the elderly, kids, and those not accustomed to rigorous exercise should be extremely cautious in hot weather.
When exercising in heat, wear thinner materials and light colors. Dark, heavy clothes can make you even hotter. Gear — such as protective padding or helmets — also traps heat and raises your body temperature. If you need to suit up, shorten your workout intensity and duration.
Look for UV-blocking sunglasses, hats, or shirts and opt for sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 or higher. The most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out and continue to reapply the sunscreen according to the package directions. This is important because sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Be sure to drink enough fluids and stay hydrated throughout the day, especially as the temperature rises. Water can also come from foods like crisp lettuce, watermelon, grapefruit, broccoli, and tomatoes.
A few pounds of weight loss via sweating is common. Try weighing yourself before and after working out and replace each pound of weight loss with 2 to 3 cups of water. Water is a good choice because it moves quickly through your digestive track and into your tissues. If you’re sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, sports drinks can help your body refuel and rehydrate more efficiently.
Know the Warning Signs: Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Dehydration is a serious medical condition. Exercising in hot, humid weather can rapidly raise your body’s core temperature, putting you at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures, and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dark urine
- Cool, moist skin
The pulse rate may be slow and weak. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Body temperature may rise to 103°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. With heat stroke victims, look for the following symptoms:
- Dry, hot skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, weak pulse
- A body temperature of above 103°F
If you see someone with any warning signs of heat stroke, call 911 immediately, then cool the victim however you can. For example, move him/her to a shady spot or an air-conditioned location, or wet his/her skin with a sponge or hose.
Written by Victoria Luera, Lone Star Circle of Care Registered Dietitian. Published by Ashley Wild.