After our Northeastern winter, I was dancing with joy the day I could finally put on shorts for my outdoor run. But before long, temperatures rose from perfect to too perfect, aka swelteringly hot.
Is it safe to exercise when the thermostat goes beyond 90 degrees? In some cases, yes. Hotter temps are indeed risky but extra sweating has been shown to boost detoxification, a core focus of certain exercise classes. Bikram yoga, for example, concentrates on holding poses in 90-degree studios or more.
Despite the growing popularity of hot workouts, exercising in the heat is often more dangerous than not. Heat-sensitive medical conditions may worsen and heat-related problems, like heat stroke and heat exhaustion, are more likely to occur (symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and headache).
Your body quickly releases both water and electrolytes as the temperature rises; it needs a balance of both to properly function. Working out in the heat ups your risk for dehydration, which can cause both nausea and dizziness. Another common sign is whether the color of your urine is a dark yellow. However, drinking too much water in the heat can cause a condition called hyponatremia; this can lead to nausea, muscle cramps and seizures.
Before you venture outdoors for your next workout, here are a few tips to keeping cool when the weather is hot:
Wear light, wicking fabric: Light colors don’t absorb sunlight as much as dark ones, and clothes made of wicking fabric are designed to take sweat away from your body and keep you cool.
Watch your watch: When you’re exercising in the heat, the time of day makes a big difference. Try to avoid hitting the pavement between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It’s probably a bummer getting up early for a morning workout, but it’s totally worth it.
Take it slow: Even if you’re trying to break a personal record, keep in mind that heat and humidity will slow you down. Overexerting yourself can be dangerous when it’s too warm. Accept that, and know that it’s perfectly fine to take breaks when you need them.
Just keep sipping: It’s important to hydrate while you exercise, but it’s just as critical to drink water throughout the day. Boosting your fluid intake can prevent some of the conditions commonly caused by exercising in the heat.
Listen to your body: Regardless of the temperature, your clothes or the amount of water you’ve consumed that day, it’s important to stay in tune with what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling dizzy, faint, nauseous or exhausted, stop exercising and take a break or head home for a cool (and much-needed) shower.