Tips to Beat the Heat and Stay Active

Being active can be a challenge in hot climates or when summer heat reaches the northern latitudes, so modifying our activities for hot weather can ensure that we maintain an active lifestyle, burn calories, and stay toned. If you would like to continue to exercise or adopt some new ideas for your summer workouts, keep reading for Tips to Beat the Heat and Stay Active

Movement is essential to pain management

Since movement is essential to pain management, a sharp mind, and mental health, finding the right mix of aerobic exercise, stretching and strength training may be as important as our food selections and sleep habits. If you are lucky enough to have a physical job, your choices are minimal; if your lifestyle and work are sedentary, do yourself a favor and find one or two activities that get your heart pumping and work your muscles. 

It used to be a way of life to milk cows and haul buckets of it to the cream separator, hoe the garden, mix and knead large batches of bread, heft bales of hay to feed livestock and chop wood for the stove. But with modern conveniences and city living, our muscles go underutilized and unchallenged if we don’t intentionally incorporate lifting, walking, and stretching into each day. 

Hot weather and exercise safety

While the farmer does his work regardless of temperature and becomes acclimated to more variations than most of us, he also wades through ditches to irrigate his fields, schedules his hardest work in the early morning, or even stops for a dip in the “crick” when the heat is overbearing. Heat-related medical conditions such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke are serious and dangerous, so how can we enjoy activities that cause the body to heat up when temperatures are already hotter than our bodies want to be?

Before we consider adapting our workouts and activity to hot weather, here are a few tips for exercising safely when temperatures rise:

  1. Maintain hydration—Like a car’s radiator, our bodies utilize water to keep our temperature within a healthy range. Since the body is comprised of nearly 60% water, we need it for breathing, digestion, and every basic bodily function. Pay attention to sensations of thirst and dry throat. Also, learn to recognize dehydration through other signs: strong-smelling and dark urine, constipation, dry eyes and nose, yawning when you wake in the morning, fuzzy-headedness, and fatigue or lethargy. 
  2. Exercise during the coolest part of the day—If you’re an early riser, this is your payoff, because the coolest part of the day is typically before sun up. For those who aren’t morning people, the summer months can make rising earlier a little easier because of early light. Try getting out for a walk as the sun breaks. You may be surprised at how refreshing it is to see a part of the day you aren’t familiar with. Weather forecasts make it easy to know ahead of time when the temp will accommodate your outdoor activity.
  3. Wear the right clothing—Unprotected eyes, feet that are too hot, or clothing that doesn’t breathe can make outdoor activities very unpleasant, so invest in your health by choosing what you wear for comfort and safety:
    • Loose-fitting activewear that aids in air circulation
    • Light-colored garments that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them
    • Moisture-wicking fabrics to help sweat evaporate
  4. Focus on safety—Know how to keep body temperature in a safe range and what to do if you experience medical complications or emergencies. Don’t ignore the warning signs of heat exhaustion, which include:
    • Nausea
    • Weakness
    • Muscle cramps
    • Headache
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
Woman exercises near water while drinking water

Adjusting your exercise routine can help you stay active and safe during hot summer months

Becky’s #1 cool-down solution

TIP: I like to get my neck gaiter or cloth hat wet before hiking. It keeps me cooler and makes my hike so much more comfortable.

Use caution when exercising in the heat

If you experience symptoms associated with overheating, stop exercising or slow down as you seek shade or a cooler location. Removing excess clothing and getting hydrated will help lower body temperature. Placing an ice pack or cool towel on the forehead, neck, or underarms hastens the process. Seek medical care if body temperature reaches more than 102o or if symptoms of heat exhaustion persist for more than 15-20 minutes. Read the Mayo Clinic’s advice on staying safe when exercising in hot weather.

Adjust activities for hot weather

Some of our outdoor activities may be incompatible with very high temperatures this summer. What to do? Put on your thinking cap and come up with a few alternative options. Will this cause you some inconvenience? Possibly. But it may also give you an opportunity to try out some different activities that may become favorites or at least broaden your exercise repertoire. Have you considered any of these substitutions?

  • Early-morning activity—with incremental time adjustments, try moving an activity ahead by an hour or two
  • Watersports: swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or waterskiing
  • Add a water mister and/or a fan to an outdoor exercise space—there are numerous options online from continuous-spray bottles to multi-nozzle misters for patios (check on Amazon, eBay)
  • Indoor exercise venues such as pools, running tracks, and gyms (or even a shopping mall)
  • Plan getaways to the mountains or seashore where hiking and walking or biking can be done in more comfortable temperatures

If your normal workout cannot be adapted to extreme heat, remember that even gardening, walking the dog, and jumping rope provides good movement for the body. And some activity is always better than none.

Ready for more tips on staying active and exercise during the summer months? Read 7 Tips for Managing Chronic Pain for Maximum Summer Fun

If you are interested in knowing more about our NBHWC-certified Health and Wellness Coach Training Program, start here.

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About the Author: Becky Curtis

After a horrific car accident nearly took her life and her own long and complex recovery journey, Becky has assembled a vibrant team of specially-trained coaches—healthcare professionals who have gained proficiency in teaching and coaching, many who live successfully with chronic pain. Becky travels extensively to speak about the role of health coaching in pain management and has been a regular speaker at PAINWeek®, and many other conferences, in addition to coaching and managing TCC’s program. She lives in Utah with her husband and dog, Quigley.

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