Summer is one of the best times for active outdoor activities. But as nice as the sunshine is, there are some precautions you should take for the heat. Just as winter requires you to cover up, summer has its challenges and it’s important to stay safe if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
The last thing you want to do is experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke because you didn’t prepare accordingly. Stay safe with these tips if you enjoy long walks, runs, hikes or bike rides.
It sounds obvious, but prioritizing hydration is important to staying healthy outdoors on hot days. In fact, you should take it a step further and infuse your water with electrolytes or replace it with a sports drink. Electrolytes help you restore minerals lost through sweat. That’s why water alone isn’t enough if you’re exercising outdoors in the heat. “Exercise raises your core temperature, and it’s through sweating that the body can manage and moderate the heat that’s generated,” said Joy Puleo, certified personal trainer and Balanced Body Education Program Manager. She added that in hot and humid weather, this natural cooling mechanism may not work as effectively.
Karen Hoch, a running coach for the Road Runners Club of America, said if you plan to do a vigorous activity like running, you should hydrate well the day before using electrolytes. “When you wake up in the morning, drink room-temperature water and continue to drink water and replenish electrolytes until 30 minutes before your run,” she explained. While you’re out and about, she suggests carrying electrolyte water and cash in case you need to fill up along the way.
When training in any season, a good rule of thumb is to dress for the weather. Wearing a light hat is a good way to keep your face covered, and wearing sunglasses protects your eyes from the sun. When it’s hot, it’s best to wear minimal and light-colored clothing (dark colors trap heat) to avoid overheating. Also, it’s best to stick to moisture-wicking material or synthetic fabrics like nylon, as it breathes better than cotton, which doesn’t dry fast enough.
They will also help prevent chafing, which is common in summer and is caused by constant skin-to-skin friction or skin-to-clothes rubbing. If you tend to chafe, be sure to slather on prone areas with petroleum jelly, a balm (like Body Glide), or even popular drugstore moisturizers like Aquaphor or Cerave.
Read more: Summer workouts that are great for the outdoors
Go out earlier or later in the day
The time of day you choose to exercise outdoors can make or break your workout. Stick to early morning or late evening hours after sunset. “Avoid outdoor activity between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., because that’s considered the hottest part of the day,” said Daniel Maman, personal trainer at My Phenom Fitness. Staying outdoors in this weather for extended periods of time puts you at risk of heat exhaustion.
If you have to go out during peak hours…
If you must be outdoors during the hottest part of the day, be extra prepared. Mario Musa, a certified tennis instructor, suggests adjusting to the heat slowly. “By gradually increasing your time outdoors over a period of several days, it will give your body time to adapt to the warmer temperatures,” he said.
You should always wear sunscreen when you go outside, but you should be even more careful if you plan to be outside during peak hours. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher with broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. If you’re not sure what type to buy, CNET has a list of the best sunscreens on the market that are a good place to start. Hoch says that if you plan to run, you should find a shady route and reduce the intensity of your run. “I always recommend staying in your aerobic zone as well, which means jogging at an easy, conversational pace.”
It becomes dangerous to be outside too long when the temperature reaches a heat index of 91 degrees or higher, so be sure to have plenty of water with you. You should also be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Profuse sweating
- Fast or weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue or weakness
- Headache or fainting
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to try to cool down as soon as possible. However, if you are vomiting, it is best to go to the hospital to be seen by a doctor.
It’s normal to want to enjoy the summer days to the fullest. Many of these days may include high temperatures, but as long as you are prepared, you can enjoy them safely. Make sure you dress appropriately, stay hydrated, choose shade when possible, and listen to your body if you start to feel sick. Coolness and comfort will make even the hottest days easy to handle.