Fitness

Exercising Safely in Summer

Last updated: Jul 01, 2016

Hot weather exerciseExercising on hot summer days can make your workouts uncomfortable; but without proper precautions, they also can increase your risk of serious health problems, including dehydration and heat exhaustion. In some cases, exercising for too long in very warm temperatures can lead to a life-threatening condition called heat stroke. That’s why it’s important to understand symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and take steps to protect yourself.

Before starting a new or intensifying your current exercise program,
see your
Summit Medical Group practitioner
to ensure it’s safe for you to exercise this summer.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: What’s the Difference?

Heat exhaustion is a serious health condition that requires immediate nonmedical attention. If you feel any of the symptoms below after time or activity in the heat, get into a cool, shady location. Drink plenty of fluids, take a cool shower / bath or apply cool compresses.

Heat exhaustion results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, becoming dehydrated, and/or losing too much salt from excessive sweating. Left unattended, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke and cause life-threatening problems.1

Heat exhaustion symptoms include:1

  • Dark-colored urine, which suggests dehydration
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling excessively tired
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle and/or abdominal cramps
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting / being unconscious
  • Sweating excessively
  • Cool, damp, pale (clammy) skin
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle cramps

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. Heat stroke differs from heat exhaustion because it requires immediate medical attention or can progress rapidly and cause coma, organ damage, and even death. If you suspect heat stroke, go to an urgent care center or hospital emergency department immediately.

Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, dehydration, and the body’s inability to cool itself. People with heat stroke can experience heat-related conditions, including heat exhaustion, light-headedness / fainting, and heat cramps; but some people can suffer heat stroke without signs of heat exhaustion.1

Heat stroke symptoms include:1

  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Vision problems
  • Red, hot, dry skin (not sweating)
  • A rapid (strong or weak) heartbeat
  • Feeling light headed
  • Fainting / being unconscious
  • Feeling confused and disoriented
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Body temperature of 103º F or higher
  • Seizures
  • Coma

The good news is most heat-related health problems are preventable if you take steps to protect yourself against overheating, including:1

  • Knowing your health risks, limits, and level of fitness
    and exercising according to your doctor’s recommendations
  • Exercising in the morning and evening when temperatures are their coolest
  • Allowing yourself to gradually adjust (over 2 or more weeks)
    to exercising in warm or hot weather
  • Limiting your exposure to the sun by exercising in the shade and wearing sunscreen or exercising before the sun is high in the sky
  • Drinking plenty of cool (iced) fluids (especially water) before, during,
    and after exercising
  • Avoiding caffeinated sports drinks and limit sports drinks altogether
    unless your doctor advises you to consume fluids with electrolytes
  • Wearing light, synthetic clothing made with polyesters and microfibers
    that wick away sweat and allow your skin to cool
  • Exercising less intensely and for shorter periods as temperatures rise
  • Taking breaks to rest, rehydrate, and recover
  • Dousing your face, head, and body with cool water during and after your workout

If you’re unsure whether exercising outside during the summer is right for you, consider joining a gym where you can exercise in air conditioning instead.

With the hot weather already here,
it’s more important than ever
to see your
Summit Medical Group practitioner
if you are planning to exercise outside this summer!

References

  1. Kasper D, Favci A, Hauser S et al. Danzl. Heat related illnesses. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings, LLC. 2015; 478e;1-9.
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