Don’t Sweat the Heat: Tips to Safely Exercise Outdoors in the Summer

The summer solstice is June 21, which officially marks the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. As temperatures start to climb around the country, many people begin reaching for their swimsuits and flip flops, leaving their running shoes and gym bag to start collecting dust.

But the summer heat shouldn’t turn you away from exercising. At a minimum, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine recommend adults get in 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week, even during the summer months. Children require even more exercise – a recommended 250 minutes per week.

Unfortunately, many Americans don’t meet those numbers; two-thirds of our population is either overweight or obese.

Exercising outdoors in the summer does pose some concerns, such as sunburn, overheating and dehydration. However, it also offers a benefit: more Vitamin D! Despite the name, Vitamin D is really a hormone that many people – up to 50 percent of the U.S., in fact – do not get enough of. According to Mayo Clinic, this deficit can lead to thin, brittle or misshaped bones.

Instead of skipping summer exercise, Anuruddh Misra, MD, a Premise provider board-certified in sports and internal medicine, offers these tips to keep yourself safe in the sun:

#1: Drink Up and Fuel Up

Exercise dehydrates us, so drinking water is crucial. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking in about 15 cups a day for men and 11 cups a day for women, although your age and activity level can affect those recommendations. When you add in a workout to your day, you should be drinking even more. If you’re hard at work for more than an hour, Mayo also recommends adding in a sports drink to replace any electrolytes you lost while sweating. As you’re tracking your water intake,don’t forget about your caloric needs! Keep healthy snacks handy throughout the day to maintain your energy.

#2: Plan Accordingly

Try to limit your outdoor workouts to the cooler parts of the day, avoiding the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. window, especially if you’re in a southern location. When choosing your outfit, make a habit to grab your lighter colored clothing – it won’t absorb as much heat from the sun. Lightweight clothing is also a good choice to keep your body cool.  

#3: Make Smart Decisions

Always make sure you’re listening to your body, so you don’t over exert yourself. Give yourself time to get acclimated to the new heat, especially if you’re used to cooler temperatures. Summer may even be a great time to try a new form of exercise. You’re less likely to overheat doing water sports than playing soccer or baseball.

With these ideas in mind, you can safely enjoy the next few months!

Anuruddh Misra, MD serves as a medical director with Premise Health in San Francisco, CA. He is board-certified in sports and internal medicine.

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