July 26, 2010 / 10:04 AM / 9 years ago

Heat wave: working out smart in the swelter

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Is your fitness routine wilting in the sizzle of this long, hot summer?

A tourist drinks water as he stands in the heat outside the White House in Washington, July 24, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

If you exercise outdoors, experts urge you to ease up and drink up, or your body will quickly become too hot to handle.

“If you’re running, jog. If you’re jogging, walk. If you’re walking, slow your pace,” said Dr. Douglas Casa, director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Connecticut.

“The intensity of the exercise is the biggest factor that drives your body temperature up, so do whatever you can do to decrease it,” he added.

Casa is CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute, a heat stroke prevention facility named for the Minnesota Vikings lineman who died from heat stroke in 2001.

“People who are into a regular fitness routine are dedicated,” he said. “They’re not going to take the day off. So hydrate yourself properly, wear less clothing, exercise in the shade and try to avoid the hottest part of the day.”

Casa said to make sure you’re drinking enough, check the color of your urine.

“It should look more like lemonade than apple juice,” he explained.

Most people lead their lives partially dehydrated, according to Fabio Comana of the American Council on Exercise. And he affirms that it’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity.

“Humidity has a huge role. As we sweat we bring liquid to the surface of our skin. If the air is saturated you sweat more but you’re not cooling,” he explained.

Because an exercising adult can sweat two to three liters (3.2) an hour, he recommends drinking eight ounces (0.23 liters) every 15 minutes during a workout.

“Hydrate before, during and after you exercise — aggressively,” he said.

Comana said cramping, especially of the lower extremities, light-headedness, weakness, even a little paling of the skin, are all warning signs that your body is overheating.

But most important is to know yourself.

“If you’ve always run six miles, but six miles suddenly feels harder, it’s because you’re working harder,” he said.

Wear light-colored clothing and lose those layers.

“Multiple layers form a blanket of warm air” he said. “Wear one layer that breathes well.”

Katy Bowman, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, California, says as you lose water in the heat, blood gets thicker, more like honey.

“The more viscous the blood, the harder the heart has to pump it, which is very fatiguing and has no muscular health benefits,” she explained. “Eat snacks to keep up energy. But pick something juicy. Avoid anything that requires your body to add water, like crackers, or exercise bars made of granola.”

And heed the weather report.

“Pay attention to air quality and heat index guidelines, and follow them,” she urges. “Exercising in these conditions will not improve your health, and can be very damaging.”

Paul Drewniak, the head of forecasting services of Weather Services International, says the heat wave now blanketing much of United States extends as far as western Russia. And it’s not likely to let up anytime soon.

“Global weather patterns show we are in a waning El Nino becoming La Nina,” he said, referring to the warming and cooling of surface water of the Pacific Ocean that influences weather patterns. The heat is predicted to continue into the fall.

Drewniak lives outside of a very hot Boston, Massachusetts. So how does the weatherman work out?

“I’ve been doing it in the morning or at night. I don’t exercise in the peak anymore,” he said.

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