By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Summer brings longer days, opportunities for outdoor fun and more; but the season also comes with some extremely hot temperatures. Getting active outside has its advantages but there are precautions people should take in heated conditions.
Just last week, for example, the Montgomery County Commissioners, with advice from the county’s department of public safety, issued a “Code Red Hot Weather Health Warning.” The warning was given in anticipation of extreme weather conditions during a specific period of time and residents were asked to take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses such as exhaustion. “A Code Red Hot Weather Health Warning is issued in anticipation of an oppressively hot air mass with a heat index of 100ºF or greater,” said the press release.
“Those especially at risk during extremely hot weather are very young children, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and those taking certain medications,” stated a press release on the Montgomery County Health Department website at www.montcopa.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=2477.
Aaron Christ, of Fresh Start Fitness in Pottstown, along with his team perform fitness concert assemblies at schools throughout the Northeast region as well as work with families in the area. The fitness organization works with children outside during this time of year for summer camps.
Christ said children don’t always realize the need to cool down properly in hot weather so he makes sure there’s constant hydration when exercising with a group of kids.
“If you’re with a group of people or you’re instructing other people, make sure you’re having water readily available. Also, that you’re all having water breaks at the same time,” he said.
Hydration is also very important for runners during the summer, said Dr. Kevin Kasper, of Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia. The cardiology group has locations in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
“When you sweat, you lose electrolytes and when your body volume drops, your heart rate increases. Instead of forcing down fluids, be sure to drink plenty of water beforehand and during an event to keep your body topped up,” Kasper said.
Christ said a big part of staying hydrated is making sure to replace the water lost from outdoor exercise. He said people are usually aware that they need to drink water when outside but don’t realize just how much water is lost due to sweating. He said a good tip is to weigh yourself directly before and directly after a workout.
“All the weight that you’ve lost was water and you need to replenish that,” Christ said adding that this is something many athletes do.
Christ said he himself lost 20 ounces of water during a 30-minute light bicycle ride because it just happened to be very hot outside during that time. He added that not only is it important to stay hydrated when being active in hot weather but it’s also important to get the right kind of hydration. Christ said in many cases, drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade aren’t the best choices because of the added sugar.
“Pretty much with anything under an hour of moderate to intense exercise, water is your best bet,” he said.
DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
Dr. Kasper said it’s best to wear “loose and light-moisture-wicking materials” when running outdoors to help the keep the body cool and dry.
“Also look for gear that have special mesh panels or air vents to increase airflow while running. Avoid dark colors or heavier materials like cotton because clothing matters in extreme heat conditions,” he said.
Christ also said that whenever exercising in hot weather outdoors, it’s best to avoid fabrics that will hold too much sweat because this will hinder the body’s cooling process.
“The water on your body collects heat and then evaporates. If it can’t evaporate because you got this soaking wet shirt on, then your body’s not able to cool as quickly,” he said.
Christ said people should wear light fabrics such as synthetics but for a more natural fabric, wool is also an option. He said when people consider wool, they may think of clothing that warms you but that there are many companies that provide workout gear made of wool to help the body cool down. Another bonus about the material is that it doesn’t smell which comes in handy when sweating outdoors, Christ said.
GET MOVING EARLIER OR START LATER
Christ said on days when the air quality isn’t expected to be good then it’s a great idea to start outdoor workouts either earlier in the day or later in the evening.
There is also the risk of too much sun exposure combined with outdoor heated conditions. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the invisible forms of radiation in sunlight. UV exposure can lead to skin cancer which is why it’s importance to wear sunscreen when outdoors.
“Relatively speaking, the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during daylight savings time, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during standard time, are the most hazardous for UV exposure in the continental United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
The Chester County Health Department offers some recommendations for those that will be outside during extreme weather. It’s suggested that people stay out of direct sunlight and seek shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella, and use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15.
ADJUST WORKOUTS WHEN MOVING THEM OUTDOORS
Chris said it naturally feels better to exercise in a cooler environment such as an indoor gym rather than outside on an extremely hot day. He added that the body is able to recover more quickly in a cool inside atmosphere as opposed to outside on a hot summer day.
“No matter what you think in your mind or how hard you push yourself, your body simply cannot recover as quickly from (exercise) sets that you do in hot weather as opposed to being inside,” Christ said. “So, ramp up to it.”
He said people will need more rest for intensive workouts held outdoors and people won’t have as much endurance so won’t be able to run as “hard” as they do indoors.
Dr. Kasper said runners should be patient and adjust expectations for the realistic outdoor conditions.
“If you’re about to compete in a 5K or marathon, and there’s a heat advisory — don’t fight it! Running fast in extreme heat and humidity will be dangerous and difficult, so slow down to a reasonable pace. You’ll be risking an increased chance of dehydration and higher body temperature, meaning you have to run slower and maintain the same effort to prevent heat-related illness,” he said.
The possible illnesses caused by heat include stroke, cramps, exhaustion, sunburn and rash. For more information about each of these conditions and what to do if you or someone near you experiences them, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html.