Outdoor exercise offers many benefits, such as improving mental health and increasing production of vitamin D for better overall health. But the summer heat can make outdoor exercise dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken. (Read more about the benefits of outdoor exercise here.)
The most important thing you can do when spending time outside is to be sure you are drinking enough water. Hydration is critical to your overall health. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body depends on water to survive. When the body’s water sources are depleted (when you become dehydrated), body functions begin to shut down.
Combined with extreme heat, dehydration, can quickly lead to dangerous heat exhaustion, and even potentially fatal heat stroke. Every year, hundreds of people die from heat-related health conditions. Every year, hundreds of people die from heat-related health conditions. Keeping hydrated is the best way you can avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Know the Symptoms of Dehydration
There are many warning signs that you may be dehydrated, including:
• Dark urine, or little or no urine
• Dry mouth
• Extreme thirst
• Anxiety or confusion
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Lack of tears
If you notice these symptoms, there is a good chance you are already dehydrated. The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink water regularly, not just when you feel thirsty or experience other symptoms. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:
Drink lots of water. Adults should drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but if you are exercising outdoors, you may need more. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. (If you weigh 200lbs, try to drink 100oz of water each day.)
Avoid dehydrating beverages. Caffeinated and alcoholic drinks are dehydrating. If you feel thirsty, drink water instead of dehydrating beverages. If, every time you take a drink of water, you take at least 10 big gulps, you are less likely to become dehydrated. Fruit and vegetable juices, milk, broths and herbal teas and hydrating foods like watermelon and cucumber can help you stay hydrated, but water should be your main source of fluid.
Drink before and after your workout. Fill up on water before you begin your workout and again after you finish. Drink as needed during your workout. To be sure you are drinking enough water to replenish what is lost during your workout, weight yourself before and after your workout and drink the amount of weight lost.
Know the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
The first stage of heat stroke is heat exhaustion. It is the result of being dehydrated. Perspiration is your body’s natural reaction to heat. It is how your body keeps itself cool. When you sweat, those fluids lost must be replenished. If they are not, you can become dehydrated and may experience heat exhaustion.
Here are some warning signs of heat exhaustion:
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Pale, moist skin
• Excessive sweating
• Rapid breathing
• Weakness or fatigue
• Muscle cramps
If you begin to experience these symptoms, drink water or sports drinks with electrolytes to help improve symptoms and prevent your condition from progressing to heat stroke. If your heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke and it is not treated quickly, the symptoms can be fatal. If you or someone near you begins experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate emergency medical attention:
• Dry, hot, red skin
• No sweating
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Rapid, weak pulse
In addition to staying hydrated, here are some tips to help keep you safe this summer.
Keep Cool. Plan your outdoor exercise and activities in the early morning or evening hours. When possible, avoid being outside for long periods of time during 10am and 4pm, when the heat from the sun is strongest. Keep cool in an air-conditioned place.
Don’t exercise alone. Find a buddy to workout with you. Exercising in pairs or groups is always the safest option, especially during the summer heat. If you or your workout partner begins to experience symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion, get inside, cool down and re-hydrate. Seek medical attention of symptoms do not improve.
Don’t let the summer heat keep you from staying active. Be smart about when and how you choose to exercise. Stay hydrated and know the signs of serious health problems like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.