Keep your cool while exercising this summer

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Summer is finally here and opportunities for outdoor activities are endless. Think tennis, softball, baseball, basketball, or just about any sport you like. If you prefer solitary pursuits, you can take an exhilarating run or a long, relaxing walk.

But even when the weather is warm, you still have to protect yourself from the elements. Think sunburns, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat cramps. Heat can be more deadly than cold.1

The dangers of summer workouts

Exercising in high temperatures or high humidity can cause heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt through sweat.2 You may be at risk if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • You start sweating very heavily
  • You have a rapid pulse
  • You feel like you may throw up
  • You experience heat cramps (painful muscle spasms)

Keep moving, but keep your cool, as well

A little preparation and the following safety tips can help keep you active through the summer months.

  1. Prevent dehydration

    Dehydration is when your body loses too much water. Preventing dehydration is simple and takes little planning. Start by drinking eight ounces of water the night before exercising outside. Then drink 16 ounces two hours before the activity.

    You may sweat twice as much during hot and humid weather. Higher humidity can make it feel even hotter, since your body cannot cool off as well by sweating. This puts you at a greater risk for heat-related risks.

  2. Protect your face

    Your face is often the first place to burn. This includes your eyes, ears, and neck, so make a special effort to protect them. Wear a lightweight hat with ventilation. That way you can cover your face and allow your head to breathe. Wear sunglasses that protect against UV rays and block glare during exercise.

  3. Use sunscreen

    The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 190,000 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2017. There is more skin cancer than prostate, breast, lung, colon, uterine, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers combined.

    Protect yourself. Apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun so it can bind to the skin and prevent sunburn. Take extra steps if you plan to do water sports or if your activity will make you sweat a lot. Use a waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.

Now that you know the dangers of exercising in the heat, WebMD.com offers ways to avoid those dangers so you can take advantage of the warm weather:

  • When it's hot or humid, get out and get moving during the cooler times of day. Find shaded areas like parks with big trees, and drink plenty of fluids. Save the heavy-duty workout for cooler days. You’ll have less chance of getting overheated if you do lighter exercise like walking or riding a bike.
  • Go swimming on hot days. This is a healthy family activity for summer.
  • Do light yard work or gardening. You'll burn calories while you keep the yard looking good.
  • Wash your car. This gets you outside and helps you burn calories. And if it gets too hot, just give yourself a nice splash to stay cool!

When it's just too hot, head indoors

On some summer days, it's just too hot to exercise safely outdoors. But don't stop exercising; just change your plans. Here are some more great tips from the experts at WebMD.com:

  • Be a mall-walker! Buy a pedometer and count your steps to help you stay motivated.
  • Use light weights or stretch bands at home. You can stay fit while you watch TV or listen to music. Don’t want to spend money on weights? Improvise with heavy cans of food from the pantry!
  • Buy or rent an exercise DVD, or borrow one from the library. You can stay in shape while you stay cool indoors.
  • Go dancing or take dance lessons. Or just turn on some music and dance in your living room. This gets you moving so you burn calories.
  • Crank up the music and do indoor housework like dusting, vacuuming, or washing the windows. This helps you stay active while you keep your home looking good.
  • Join a gym or a health club. Many cities have community centers that offer affordable fitness classes. (If you have health problems, ask your doctor before you use machines or take classes.)
  • Look for sports programs you can join in your community or at work. Many cities offer indoor sports like basketball, volleyball, and soccer.

Bottom line? Stay active - but stay cool this summer.

This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.