While the unusually warm weather is a cause for celebration, it can be hazardous for those that like to exercise outdoors. Overheating (in the extreme – heatstroke which is a life-threatening emergency condition) and dehydration pose a very real health risk if simple precautions are not put in place.
The main and most obvious way to avoid these health risks is to exercise in cooler conditions. This could mean exercising early in the morning or later in the day when the temperature is lower. Try to exercise under the shade, thus avoiding the heat of direct sunlight. Consider also going to the gym with air conditioning, swimming or doing water aerobics.
If you do have to exercise in the hotter part of the day, there are several precautions you can take. Firstly wear light, loose clothing that allows ventilation, but also covers most of your body – to prevent sunburn. Also, apply copious amounts of sun cream to the exposed skin, but be aware this could prevent sweating which is your body’s attempt to cool down. Wear a hat to keep the direct sunlight off your head and face. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, preferably with electrolytes dissolved in the drink. This is important because sweating means a loss of water but also valuable electrolytes such as sodium (salt) and magnesium – (a lack of which can lead to muscle cramps). It is better to sip the water rather than drink large amounts at one go. Reduce the level of exercise you would normally do and allow plenty of breaks to cool down.
As always warm up before exercise, but most importantly cool down afterwards in hot conditions. Cooling down means reducing the level of exercise slowly to prevent heat syncope and exercise associated collapse. This type of collapse occurs when you stop suddenly and then stand for a period of time and is characterised by feeling light headed or fainting immediately after exercise,
Just as importantly is being aware of the signs of heat exhaustion. This can include muscle cramps, nausea, weakness, headache, dizziness, irritability, cold clammy skin and visual problems. If you experience these signs, do not push yourself on but stop immediately and cool down. Failure to do this can lead to heatstroke which can include collapse and is a medical emergency.
Lastly, exercise somewhere that other people are, so someone can help you if you get in difficulty. Also let someone know when you expect to be back home so they can get help if you do not report back at the expected time.
I hope you enjoy your summer and stay safe when keeping fit!