For many of us, the summer months may seem like the best time to get more activity. While we love the sunny blue skies, outdoor activity can get tricky. Whether you‘re new to physical activity or a seasoned pro—it’s essential to stay mindful of how hot weather impacts your body’s ability to be safely active.
Participating in physical activity is positive, as it brings health benefits. However, the heat adds more stress to your body, putting you at risk for heat illness: this can be managed if you understand what happens to your body when you’re active in hot weather.
Think about the energy you burn in a workout—this can be anything from going for a power walk to playing a game of kickball with your family. All activity requires energy.
Now add in hot weather—the heat and humidity can make you feel like you’re carrying extra weight on your back. That’s because higher temperatures cause your body to work harder to do the same amount of activity. That means the same workout you do indoors or in milder temperatures requires more energy in the heat.
The regulation of your body temperature plays a key role here. When it’s hot outside, your body takes protective action to cool itself, sending more blood to your skin to promote sweating. Unfortunately, this protective action takes oxygen-rich blood away from your working muscles, making it more challenging to get through your workout.
So, what can you do to help your body manage heat during activity?
- Stay hydrated. Not drinking enough fluids is a key factor in heat-related illnesses. Never wait until you are thirsty to drink. Consider taking in fluid before, during, and after your workout.
- Dress smart. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing—this allows your sweat to evaporate quickly, keeping you cooler.
- Wear sunscreen. A sunburn on your skin makes it harder for your body to cool itself.
Along with these steps, you can also proactively adjust your workout sessions before you even get outside. Here are my favorite tips:
- Re-ramp up. Remember the ramp-up? That means gradually increasing how much activity you do from week to week. The same goes for getting active in the heat. By starting slow, maybe even taking a step back in intensity, then gradually increasing the time or intensity of your workout, your body will begin to adjust to the higher temperatures.
- Break it into bouts. Don’t forget about the power of 10-minute bouts! Less activity more frequently may be more doable in hotter temperatures.
- Watch the weather. Pay close attention to heat advisories and humidity alerts. Avoid extreme temperatures and move workouts indoors when you can. This is a great opportunity to tune into your Wondr workout library and mix up your routine.
- Target morning and evening. Temperatures typically peak between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. Choosing to get your workouts in before and after this window can help you stay comfortable, safe, and productive.
If you can’t change when you can get your workout in, follow the tips above and try to be active in shady spots to avoid direct sun.
Most importantly, know the warning signs of heat illness. Warning signs include muscle cramping, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting, excessive sweating, dizziness or lightheadedness, confusion, or blurred vision.
Last piece of advice: listen to your body. Try a mid-workout body scan to see how you’re doing in the heat—this will help you make smart decisions on when you need to slow down, adjust your intensity, or drink water. Powering through is never as important as staying safe.