In Mississippi, our mid-summer weather lends itself to extremely hot and humid conditions. And if your plans take you outdoors for any amount of time, it's a good idea to be prepared. Whether it's outdoor exercise, work or play, take precautions to protect yourself in the summer heat.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are dangerous effects of overexertion in the summer heat. This occurs when the body can no longer cool itself properly. Participating in strenuous activity, like exercise, in hot weather puts additional strain on your body. This comes from both the physical effects of exercise as well as the temperature. The body responds by circulating more blood to the skin, which leaves less for the muscles, thus increasing your heart rate. And when you factor in elevated humidity, sweat evaporates less readily which increases your body temperature even more.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe and healthy in the summer heat:
Allow yourself to become acclimated to the heat. If you typically exercise indoors in a cool and climate-controlled environment, it may take your body longer to adjust to the increased temperature. When you do take your activities outdoors, take it slow and decrease your normal intensity and/or time you spend outside.
Stay hydrated. Adequate fluid intake is key in avoiding heat-related illnesses. Proper hydration helps to ensure your body can sweat and cool down efficiently. A good rule of thumb to follow is not to wait until you're thirsty to drink water. If you plan to be active outdoors for an hour or more, consider hydrating with a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade, which contain important nutrients lost during intense periods of sweating.
Wear lightweight clothing. Lightly colored, lightweight and loose fitting clothing can help you stay cool and allow sweat to evaporate more readily. Avoid dark colors, which absorb heat. New technical fabrics found in many types of exercise attire today contain moisture-wicking elements to remove sweat from your body.
Alter your exercise time. Try switching your routine to early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the most intense daytime heat. You can also find a shaded spot if you must exercise outdoors during the midday heat.
Wear sunscreen. A sunburn is painful and also inhibits your body's ability to cool itself.
Keep your options open. If high heat and humidity interfere with your outdoor activity plans, look for other options. Walking indoors at the mall is popular among many people or you can try exercising at the gym or even climbing stairs in a building.
Know your health risks. If you suffer from a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heat-related illness, you should avoid excessive heat or talk with your healthcare provider.
To learn more about staying safe in the summer heat, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website.