Heart and Vascular

How to safely exercise in the heat

How to safely exercise in the heat

8/12/2022

By Sunny Intwala, MD, cardiologist and clinical exercise physiologist, Nuvance Health


Dr. Intwala, MD, cardiology


As we continue to experience record high temperatures, is it a good idea to exercise outdoors? The short answer is yes, but there are several precautions you should take to avoid heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke.  Here are six tips on how to work out safely in the heat.


Avoid a heavy meal before your workout – Digesting takes a lot of energy creating body heat that you don’t want before any physical activity. Try eating a light meal, like a salad or protein bars, one hour before you exercise. If you eat a heavy meal (meats, cheeses) it will take longer to digest so wait two to three hours before your workout.


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise. It’s a good idea to drink between 16 to 32 ounces for every hour of physical activity in the heat.


Protect your skin – Your skin has a natural cooling system so help protect that by using sunscreen and wearing light, loose clothing. Look for athletic wear with sweat-wicking materials that allows your skin to perspire and cool down.


Choose morning or evening workouts – Early mornings and evenings tend to be much cooler than midday. Plan your exercise during those times when temperatures can be as much as 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in the afternoon. If you must work out during the middle of the day, avoid direct sun and find shady areas to complete your routine.


Consider heat-friendly exercises – Running, trekking and biking can be very challenging and dangerous in the heat. Opt for some other active alternatives like swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, yoga and/or walking.


Listen to your body and know the warning signs – If you are feeling uncomfortable or tired during an outdoor workout, don’t push yourself. Ease up and listen to what your body is telling you. Heat exhaustion may present with fatigue, nausea, headache, extreme thirst, rapid breathing, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. Heat stroke is more severe, and symptoms can include confusion, vomiting, seizures and passing out. For heat exhaustion, stop exercising and pour water over your head to cool down. For heat stroke, head to an emergency facility as soon as possible.


Learn more about sports cardiology at Nuvance Health.