The rising temperatures and extreme
humidity of the summer months in Cayman can make exercising outdoors a
challenging and often unsafe activity.
This doesn’t mean you have to stay
indoors again until the ‘cooler’ winter months arrive. It is simply important
to know how to exercise in these hotter conditions.
Normally the body deals with high
heat levels through perspiration (sweating)- evaporating sweat is the body’s
cooling system. As your body heats up during exercise, it needs to somehow
remove this excess heat.
The heat produced by exercising
muscle causes blood vessels in the skin to dilate, which increases the blood
flow to the skin. This elevated blood flow to the skin and its surface allows
the excess heat to be lost to the surrounding air.
The sweat evaporates from the skin,
removing heat and cooling the body. Evaporation of sweat removes fluid from the
body so it is important to maintain fluids for blood flow and sweat production
by drinking water and/or sports drinks.
However, in the high humidity,
sweat does not evaporate as quickly and your body temperature can rise to
dangerous levels. This can cause headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps and
disorientation. In extreme cases, overheating can lead to irregular heartbeats,
even coma and sudden death.
Here are the dos and don’ts for
training when the weather is hot, hot, hot.
Avoid working out in the most
intense sun of the day or when both temperature and humidity are at their
highest – normally between 10am and 3pm.
Stay hydrated. The easiest way to
avoid heat disorders is to keep your body hydrated. This means drinking fluids
before, during and after exercise. The body’s fluid needs vary with exertion
level, climate, humidity, terrain and other factors Obey your thirst and drink
when your mouth is dry and you feel the need to drink. In training, drink
before workouts and make sure you have access to fluids when exercising longer
than 30 minutes. During longer workouts you should drink sports drinks such as
Gatorade to replace salt and other minerals/electrolytes. Cool water is the
best choice unless you exercise for longer than 90 minutes. in which case a
sports drink will help to restore and replenish the nutrients lost by the body.
Before beginning an exercise session, you should already be well hydrated –
check by making sure your urine runs clear. Continue to drink water throughout
your workout (4-8 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes) and then again after you’ve
completed your training.
Choose clothing carefully.
Light-coloured, loose fitting clothing will help your body breathe and cool
itself down naturally. Tight clothing restricts the cooling process and dark colours
absorb the sun’s light and heat. Wear synthetic fabrics (not cotton) because
they will wick moisture away from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur.
A sport-friendly sun block of at
least SPF 15 that lets your skin breathe is, of course, a must, along with
sunglasses and a hat to provide further protection from the intensity of the
Be educated. You should be very
familiar with the signs of heat problems so you recognise them in yourself or
in a training partner. If you feel faint, dizzy, disoriented, have stopped sweating,
or your skin is cool and clammy, slow down or stop running. If symptoms
persist, sit in the shade and seek help.
Take special care if you are very
underweight, very overweight, pregnant or an older adult. Try to maintain a
moderate intensity level – about 60 per cent of your maximum heart rate –
staying fully hydrated at all times with lots of rest breaks.
Whether you are walking, running,
cycling or playing a team sport, exercising in the heat and humidity can put
you at risk for dehydration, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses.
Common sense is the key to avoiding problems, so be sure to follow these
More serious athletes often find it
helpful to weigh themselves both before and after a workout. For every pound of
weight you lose during a workout, drink 2.5 to 3 cups of fluid. Rehydration
occurs faster in the presence of sodium (salt) regardless of whether this
sodium is provided in a sports drink or food.
Heat stroke is a very serious
condition that can occur when training in hot and humid environments.
Evaporation of sweat is an important cooling system that can efficiently remove
However, if exercise is done in a
hot, humid environment, then sweat does not evaporate. This reduces the
efficiency of this system and the person is subject to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening
condition. During heat stroke some or all of the following symptoms will occur:
a core body temp above 104F (40C), sweating stops, heart rate increases,
respiration increases, confusion, dizziness, nausea and headache.
Heat stroke can cause a person to
collapse, lose consciousness and even die. It is a very serious condition which
requires immediate medical attention.
You don’t have to stop exercising
in the heat, just follow a few simple rules to stay safe and cool during these
hot summer months.
Deanna Smith is an exercise physiologist and pilates instructor at
ENERGY. She can be contacted at [email protected] or 946-6006.