With summer in full swing, more people are exercising outdoors and enjoying the nice weather. However, the high-temperature days can feel overwhelming especially during a workout. HSS physiatrist Ellen Casey, MD, provides five things to keep in mind while exercising in the heat.
- Try New Things. Summer is a great time to try new sports and types of exercise. Great water based sports include swimming, water polo, surfing and stand up paddleboarding. If you’re not a fan of the water, you can switch up your exercise by doing yoga in the park, playing beach volleyball or tennis. If you want to merge activities, try yoga on a paddleboard! New activities can be lots of fun and improve your fitness by challenging muscles in different ways than your typical workouts and you may experience some muscle soreness. Occasionally injuries can occur if people abruptly change their exercise routine, so make sure to add new exercise gradually.
- Running on the beach is not the same as running on the street or a treadmill. Running on the beach is a great way to exercise during the summer or on vacation. However, sand running demands more from certain structures, including the muscles in the feet and the Achilles tendon. In order to avoid pain and possible injury, you should decrease your running duration or mileage as your body acclimates to the new running surface. In order to prepare for sand running, it is a good idea to strengthen the muscles of your feet and ankles with standing heel raises, foot doming and scrunching up a towel with your toes.
- Hydrate! Proper hydration is key to exercising safely in warm weather. If you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, you are already behind where you should be regarding your fluid balance. A basic hydration plan includes drinking 8-16 ounces of water 1-2 hours before exercise, 5 ounces every 10 minutes during exercise and then 18 ounces after exercise. One easy way to monitor your fluid status is to look at the color of your urine. If your urine is dark yellow, you are dehydrated, but if your urine is light yellow or clear, then you have consumed enough water.
- Watch out for heat illness. Heat illness is a disorder that can occur when exercise is performed in hot and humid climates. There are a spectrum of symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, swelling in the hands/feet and decreased or cessation of sweating. In addition to drinking liquids, it is important to wear clothing that absorbs sweat and is loose. In addition, it is best exercise in the morning or evening, rather than during mid-day when temperatures and sun-exposure are highest.
- Take care of your skin. When exercising outside, use sunscreen with sun protection factor of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen frequently, especially if you are sweating. Ultraviolet protection sunglasses, clothing and hats can provide an additional shield from the sun.
Dr. Ellen Casey is a physiatrist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. Her practices focuses on the conservative treatment of acute sports medicine injuries and spine disorders. Dr. Casey also has expertise in the female athlete, including the female athlete triad, stress fractures and physical activity during and after pregnancy.