Breaking a sweat on an already-hot summer day may not always be appealing, but there are many safe ways to keep fit in the heat—no matter your age or activity level. Summit Health family medicine specialist Dr. Charlotte Lin offers the following tips on staying active, even when temperatures soar.
Get an early start
Fancy hitting the trails for a mind-clearing run? Do your most strenuous exercise early in the morning or later in the evening. Try to avoid outdoor workouts at the hottest time of the day, which Dr. Lin says are usually between the hours of 12 PM-6 PM.
As soon as you wake up, drink a full glass of water. To encourage yourself to drink more throughout the day, get creative, suggests Dr. Lin. “Add fruit to it or get yourself a water bottle so you are reminded to drink throughout the day. Aim to drink 1 liter of water by lunch and another liter by dinner. “
If you’re going to be exercising outside for a prolonged period of time, you’ll want to replenish your electrolytes, too. Dr. Lin recommends sipping on a sports drink as well as increasing your water intake. Remember that caffeine and alcohol will cause dehydration, so drink water along with these beverages.
Choose your exercise wisely
She also suggests staying cool with activities like water aerobics, swimming in the community pool, or recreating at our local lakes and on the river. If it gets too hot out, take the fun indoors to an air-conditioned facility. From rock climbing to an indoor fitness class, there are plenty of exercise options that allow you to stay cool.
Dress for the weather
Reduce your risk of overheating by choosing light-colored, loose-fitting, and moisture-wicking clothing. Invest in pieces with natural fibers like cotton that can help you stay cool and comfortable. Consider clothes with built-in sun protection during the day and reflective gear if you’ll be working out before sunrise or after sunset. And don’t forget your broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Choosing the ideal sunscreen
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays. And if you plan to get wet or sweat a lot, consider a sunscreen that is labeled as water-resistant. Remember that the higher the SPF the more protection, therefore an SPF of 50 is even better than an SPF of 15. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM.
How to apply sunscreen properly
Make sure you protect all parts of your body not covered by clothing. When it comes to how much, remember the “teaspoon rule”:
- 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to the face and neck
- 2 teaspoons to the chest and abdomen
- 2 teaspoons for the back
- 1 teaspoon to each arm
- 2 teaspoons to each leg
And remember to take the bottle of sunscreen with you to wherever you’re going, as you’ll have to reapply after about every two hours.
Rather than reaching for sugary snacks after your workout, try a juicy piece of fruit from your local farmer’s market and a few nuts or seeds to balance it out for healthy protein and fat, suggests Dr. Lin.
Know your limits when exercising for two
If you’re expecting, don’t attempt exercise that’s more strenuous than what you did pre-pregnancy. “Listen to your body, take breaks, and have a rest day when needed,” says Lin.
Consider safe exercises that limit the risk of injury such as walking, riding on a stationary bike, or finding a prenatal yoga video on YouTube. If it’s very hot out, stay inside where it’s cooler, or consider water aerobics, which is especially easy on the joints.
Considerations for older adults
Some medications can make seniors even more susceptible to the heat and at higher risk of becoming dehydrated. Other types of medications may require seniors to stay out of the sun entirely. Fortunately, there are many indoor training and exercise programs that are focused on the needs of older adults. Try yoga, Tai Chi, or working with free weights and resistance bands to help build muscle, improve balance, and increase flexibility. And consult with your medical provider if you have any specific questions.