Jun 28, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
With the sun shining and days getting longer, many choose to move their workout routine outside. Spending some time in the great outdoors has many benefits, like boosting your mood and improving your quality of sleep. However, incorrectly exercising in the sweltering Georgia heat can be dangerous, and even life-threatening! Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be on your way to a safe summer workout in no time!
If you’ve perfected your indoor routine and are ready to take it outside, think again. It’s important to take it easy at first if you’re not used to exercising in hot weather. It can take at least a week or two for your body to acclimate to the heat, and jumping right in at 100% puts you at a higher risk for heat-related illness. You can gradually increase the intensity of your workout as your body begins to adapt to the Atlanta weather we all know and love.
Watch the clock
Choosing the right time to exercise can make your workout a whole lot safer. Avoiding the midday sun and heat is key, and there are even added benefits to an early or late workout. Getting active early in the morning can energize you for the rest of the day and improve your sleep cycle, while an evening workout is good because muscles are at their most flexible. Campus Recreation personal trainer, Becky James recommends a morning workout, when the heat and humidity are lower, air quality is better, and sun exposure is at a minimum.
Most people know that UV rays are damaging to the skin, but did you know that sunburns can drastically impair your body’s ability to lower its temperature? To best protect yourself from the sun, make sure to apply at least SPF 15 sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Give your sunscreen 30 minutes to soak in before you head out, and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours, or right after swimming, toweling off, or significant sweating. It’s also a good idea to wear light colors to prevent your body from absorbing excess heat.
Hydrate early and often
Staying hydrated allows your body to sweat and cool itself off, and is a key factor in preventing heat-related illnesses. Start drinking fluids a couple hours before heading out, and make sure to continue hydrating throughout your workout. James advises, “taking more water than you think you need and never miss an opportunity to refill.”
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, heat-related illness is still a possibility, and it’s important to know the signs and listen to your body. Stamps Health Services, Senior Director Dr. Ben Holton describes heat illness as a spectrum from mild to life-threatening, ranging from dehydration to heat edema, to heat cramps, to heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Holton said, “the hallmark of heat stroke is altered mental status, in addition to elevated body temperature, elevated heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea/vomiting and can progress to organ failure.” Pushing through these symptoms can be detrimental to your health. Take time to cool down and rehydrate. If your symptoms persist for more than 15 minutes, be sure to see a doctor. Ignoring the onset of heat stroke can be life-threatening.
When to seek Medical attention
Dr. Holton advises seeking treatment for heat illness by cooling down and hydrating. Heat edema, heat cramps, and mild heat exhaustion can typically be treated without going to a medical facility. More significant heat exhaustion, with elevated heart rate, low blood pressure, and fainting should be treated at a medical facility. Any change in mental status should prompt emergent evaluation in an emergency department.