This season’s predicted to be a scorcher, but if you’re worried about exercising in the heat, doctors say, “Don’t sweat it.”
That’s because we’re actually pretty well-suited to the hot weather and require less adaptation to high heat than to cooler climes. Plus, our natural defense mechanism against high temps — sweating — is unique to humans. “No other animal can do that like us,” says Dr. Samuel Cheuvront of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, which studies the health and performance of Army personnel.
Even better? Heat training also has health benefits — good news for active New Yorkers who want to continue exercising even as the National Weather Service forecasts higher than usual temperatures this summer. The heat helps more blood get to your heart, says Dr. Rebecca Stearns, from the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, which studies sudden death and focuses on heat stroke. “This can fuel the muscles during exercise — like natural, legal doping.”
Still, basic precautions are necessary when exercising outdoors come summertime. High temperatures, especially combined with humidity, can wreak havoc on the body, so use common sense.
“You don’t have to kill it all the time,” says Peter Ciaccia, New York Road Runners’ events president and New York City Marathon race director. “You can get your miles in, but you don’t have to do it at race pace.”
Here are seven other ways to beat the heat and stay safe while getting fit.
You need a week to 10 days to acclimate to heat, during which you should gradually ramp up your routine and start monitoring your urine color — a good indicator of whether you’re properly hydrated. “It should be pale yellow, like lemonade,” Stearns says.Check your hydration before exercising
Calculate your water intake
The American College of Sports Medicinerecommends that athletes drink 24 ounces for every pound shed within two hours after exercising (weigh yourself naked before and after to figure out how much you’ve lost).
Make sure you don’t gulp down too much at once, though. “Normally people can only handle [roughly] 34 to 40 ounces of fluid an hour in their stomachs,” says William Adams, Ph.D., of the Korey Stringer Institute.
While bikers or hikers can carry drinks, it’s tougher for runners, who may need to wear hydration vests or fuel belts. “Some people place bottles at certain parts of a run if they’re doing loops in the park,” says
Ciaccia. “Plan your route in advance — look for one that’s shady [to limit direct sun exposure] and has water fountains.”
Gulp down two parts water to one part Day-Glo drink
Everyone knows sports drinks help restore the fluids and electrolytes lost during sweating, but there’s actually a formula behind how much you should drink.
“We use a 2-to-1 ratio between water and sports drinks — two 16-ounce bottles of water for [every] one 16-ounce bottle of an isotonic drink” like Powerade or Gatorade, says Kevin Christen, head athletic trainer for the soccer club New York City FC.
But don’t drink too much
Yes, there is such a thing as drinking too much water — and it can even be dangerous. Overhydration can cause hyponatremia, a k a low blood sodium. “Some of the symptoms are the same as heat exhaustion, which can make it difficult to diagnose without a blood test,” says Army doctor Cheuvront.
Salt is your friend — really
When you’re getting used to hot weather, you tend to lose more salt in your sweat, which means that you may become hyponatremic if you don’t replace it — and Gatorade alone won’t cut it in the beginning, since the amount of salt in one bottle is only about one-third to one-half of what’s in our sweat.
“The main thing we advocate is that people eat,” says Cheuvront. “Salt is found more in canned vegetables, canned soups, luncheon meats, cheese. When soldiers are first deployed or go [into] training, we recommend that they salt their food for the first few days.”
Women tend to be more susceptible to hyponatremia due to their smaller sizes. “You see that in marathons,” says Cheuvront. “Women are smaller and tend to run more slowly, so they tend to be on the course longer and to drink more.”
Watch out for painkillers
If you take drugs, regardless of whether they’re over-the-counter or prescription, consult your doctor or pharmacist — or at least pay close attention to labels — before exercising, because some medicine can impede sweating.
“Antihistamines can reduce sweating rate,” says Cheuvront. “Certain stimulants [such as] ephedrine [and] some supplements that are not regulated very well have been implicated in problems related to heat tolerance.”
Know the signs of heat exhaustion
Dizziness? Nausea? Stop and chill!
“Heat exhaustion is a cardiovascular and low-blood-pressure problem, and we’re generally upright, so more blood pools in the feet and legs,” Cheuvront says. “Being on your back in the shade [and] elevating your feet will help you return to normal [body temperature].”
Just beware of the degrees in heat illnesses, and be on the lookout for more serious heat-related illnesses. After heat exhaustion comes heat injury (symptoms include unsteady walk and chills), followed by heat stroke, in which body temperature rises above 104 degrees, and you can become disoriented. In that case, it’s best to call 911. “You need to get that person off [his or her] feet and cool them quickly,” Cheuvront says.
Source: New York Post