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Safe Exercises for Summer's Hottest Days

The dog days of summer are here, and it's important to be safe while engaging in physical activity outdoors. Learn how to watch out for heat exhaustion, tips on how to stay safe in the heat, and certain exercises that you can do even in summer's hottest days.

The summer months can bring sweltering heat and oppressive humidity. However, don’t let these dog days of summer keep you from maintaining your regular exercise routine. The excessive heat and humidity can not only make certain outdoor activities uncomfortable, it can actually be quite dangerous if you don’t take precaution. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are very serious and can even be deadly.

Normally, your body will naturally cool itself off by sweating. As the water in your sweat evaporates off of your skin and up into the surrounding air, this cools you down. However, the hot summer days can quickly become problematic if you don’t stay hydrated enough or if it’s simply too humid and the air’s moisture content is too high to absorb any more moisture. You also lose electrolytes through sweat, and maintaining electrolyte balance in your body is essential for normal body functioning.

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea or vomiting, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, cool clammy skin, a rapid, weak pulse, and a pale or grayish tone to your skin. Heat exhaustion can become very serious and can lead to a heat stroke, which includes symptoms such as a throbbing headache, no sweating, red, hot, dry skin, a body temperature of 103 degrees F or higher, nausea or vomiting, a rapid, strong pulse, and possible loss of consciousness.

Stay Hydrated!

I know this seems obvious, but a great deal of people simply don’t take in enough fluids during the summer. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. Pre-hydrate by drinking 16 to 24 ounces of water before you brave the outdoors. Throughout your sweat-session, drink 6-8 ounces of H20 every 15 minutes or so. After you finish your exercise regimen, aim for two more cups of water or low-sugar sports drink to replenish your electrolytes.

Protect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. The sun is doubly-dangerous -- both causing you to overheat if you’re not careful, and also causing damage to your skin if you exercise outside without sunscreen. Since you’ll be sweating, opt for a sweat-proof, water-proof sunscreen and reapply frequently.

Time of Day

Try to avoid exercising outdoors between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (unless you’re a masochist and are training for some athletic event that occurs during the extreme daytime heat). The ideal time for exercise during a summer scorcher is early in the morning or late in the evening.

Wear Breathable, Light Clothing

Opt for loose-fitting, light colored clothing to reflect the sun’s damaging rays (cotton is best because it’s breathable).

Engage in Water Activities

What better way to cool off and burn some calories in the process than by doing some sort of water exercise. Swimming laps, doing water aerobics, water skiing, surfing, wakeboarding, playing water volleyball, or canoeing or kayaking (with periodic dips in the cool water, of course) are all great forms of physical activity that are safe in the sun. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the day and continue to drink water.

Seek Shady Spots

Get your cardio in by taking a hike or run on a shaded path. The tree coverage will help you keep cool while you get your heart pumping.

Do Your Most Intense Workouts Indoors

For your hardest workouts, save those for the gym where it’s air-conditioned. Plan your lighter workouts, such as yoga or walking, for the outdoors.

Rain Running, Anyone?

If showers are forecasted, plan a run in the rain. It’ll help cool you off so you can still enjoy some outdoor cardio in the summer. Plus, it can be a lot of fun!

Play with the Kiddos!

If you’ve got kids, nieces, nephews, or grandkids, break out the water balloons, slip-n-slide, sprinklers, or water guns and have some fun in the sun. It’ll be such a blast you won’t even realize you’re exercising.

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