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Healthy You

Get Your Summer Sweat On: Tips for Safe Exercising

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 8:16 AM

Winter is long gone, and has taken all of the slippery ice and freezing temperatures along with it. The beautiful weather and temperatures of summertime are perfect for constant outdoor activity, making this season seem carefree when it comes to outdoor safety. But wait! Even though summer seems like the best time to exercise outdoors, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hazards to be aware of. Working out in the heat and under the sun can be unsafe if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

Hallie Labrador, MD, Sports and Family Medicine Physician at NorthShore, breaks down some of the key points you should think about when preparing a successful and mindful summer workout:

  • Stay hydrated. You want to avoid losing too much water and becoming dehydrated, which can lead to cramps, dizziness, headaches, and more. To prevent this, you’ll need to hydrate before, during, and after your workout; however, the exact amount needed to consume varies from person to person. General guidelines recommend drinking 16-20 ounces of water four or more hours before your workout, and another 8 to 12 ounces 10 to 15 minutes before. While you work out, average 3 to 8 ounces for every 15 minutes you’re active. After your workout, find a scale to measure your current weight and drink another 16 to 24 ounces for each pound you lost compared to your pre-exercise weight. If at any point, your stomach feels full or water seems to be moving around, you do not need to continue drinking. Taking in too much water can cause hyponatremia, which majorly lowers the level of sodium in the body. Moderation is key.
  • Protect yourself. If you’re outdoors, wear light colors to reflect the sun better so your body won’t absorb as much heat. When out for long periods of time, wear sunglasses and a hat for added protection against sun exposure. You also can’t forget your sunscreen. Apply 1 ounce with SPF 15 or higher to your entire body (even on cloudy days) and give it 30 minutes to soak into your skin before heading out. It only takes 20 minutes of exposure for sun burn to occur. If you notice your skin starting to redden or blister, get out of the sun and apply wet towels to the affected area. Follow up with anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling, and after-sun lotion (like aloe vera gel).
  • Choose your time wisely. The hottest time of the day is between 10AM and 4PM, so if you plan to exercise outside, do so in the early mornings or evenings. Lowered temperatures and less risk of sun exposure lessen your chances for overheating or getting burned. There are plenty of benefits to both as well. A morning workout will energize you for the rest of the day, but it can also help your appetite and sleep cycle, while an evening workout is a good time to work the muscles since the body temperature is at its highest, and muscles are at their most flexible.
  • Know your limits. If you’re feeling dizzy, nauseous, or extremely hot, stop. Find a cool place, get some fluid, and let your body recover. If you find yourself still feeling ill after 15 minutes, seek medical attention; it’s important not to ignore the potential onset of heat exhaustion or a heat stroke. Pay attention to the symptoms; a high body temperature of 104 degrees or more, nausea or vomiting, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, an increased pulse, and alterations to speech and your mental state are all signs that you’ve been exposed to the heat for too long.
  • Have options. When the weather is intense, find a gym, rec center, or even a public place like a mall to walk in. Don’t skimp on fitness just because the weather’s not on your side.

What is your favorite way to exercise in the summer?