Keeping Fit During the Summer
Top Fitness Tips
Top Fitness Tips
As we approach the peak of the summer months and head into the second half of the year, many of us are once again thinking about our physical health. Owing to the particularly high temperatures and humidity of summer, a lot of people are understandably deterred from exercising as it can be incredibly uncomfortable. In fact, if one doesn’t pay attention to their water intake then physical exertion under these conditions can be dangerous to one’s health. Below are some top tips for keeping fit during the summer without overexerting yourself.
This is the most important rule to keep in mind and it is important for exercise under any conditions. During the summer, many of us find ourselves sweating before we’ve even started exercising. Unsurprisingly, as we sweat, our bodies lose water, and when we find ourselves losing fluids faster than we can replace them, dehydration sets in.
Water makes up over two-thirds of the human body and has a wide range of biological functions, including lubrication of our joints and eyes and helping our kidneys filter out waste and toxins. It is unsurprising, therefore, that dehydration can cause serious problems.
The most obvious effects of dehydration are feeling thirsty and having a dry mouth. Less obvious signs are passing urine less regularly and passing urine that is darker and stronger smelling than usual. Only a minor fluid imbalance is required for symptoms to manifest.
Water or diluted fruit squash are the best drinks to help prevent or cure dehydration. You should avoid caffeinated drinks including tea and coffee and fizzy drinks. Some pharmacies sell oral rehydration solutions, which consist of water with high levels of potassium, sodium salts, and either glucose or starch. The added minerals are to help your body restore the sugars and salts that are lost with the water. Dehydration, if left untreated, may become severe and can represent a serious medical emergency. If you or someone around you who is dehydrated experiences any of the following symptoms you should contact a doctor immediately:
- feeling lethargic or confused;
- a feeling of dizziness when standing that persists for more than a few seconds;
- not passing urine for eight hours; or
- a pulse that is noticeably weaker or more rapid than usual.
Staying hydrated is very important, but you should also be aware that it is possible to essentially overdose on water and cause a condition known as water poisoning or hyperhydration, which can be fatal. Accidentally consuming enough water to cause this is very rare. However, it has been known to occur in both amateur athletes and ravers as both groups expect to become dehydrated and attempt to preempt this by loading up on water beforehand. You should increase your water intake when exercising, but the increase only needs to be enough to curtail the effects of dehydration.
Clothing can obviously make a very big difference to the temperature and other conditions we experience while exercising. During hotter weather, it is better to wear loose and light-coloured clothing. This will allow your skin to ‘breathe’ and sweat to evaporate, which will cool you down, while the light colour means the clothes will reflect more heat than they absorb. Also, contrary to popular misconceptions, wearing a hat will not significantly affect your body temperature for better or for worse and it is entirely up to you whether you want to wear one. It is worth investing in a pair of sports sunglasses, as a very bright day can impair your vision and cause hazards of its own.
It is also important, regardless of the time of year, to wear the right shoes for the job. This is particularly important for runners and joggers. Wearing inappropriate shoes for intense exercise can cause physical damage to your feet and legs and have a knock-on effect that prevents you from exercising properly at all.
Exercise Morning and Evening
Generally, 10 AM to 3 PM is the warmest time of the day. By exercising first thing in the morning and then again in the evening, you can avoid the hottest part of the day and have a much more comfortable experience. Another option is to exercise as you normally would in the morning and then take a long walk as your exercise during the day. Walking is underrated as a form of exercise and while not as intense as running, one can still exert themselves walking and push themselves to go further and faster, thus burning more calories.
Swimming is another good daytime activity, as are activities such as surfing and bodyboarding, during the summer. Whether you prefer to swim in a pool or in the sea doesn’t matter. In either case, water is fantastic for exercising and is very pleasant during hot weather.
There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that evening exercise offers certain benefits. A study published in the ‘Sports Medicine’ journal found that during the evening, most exercisers performed better and demonstrated superior anaerobic performance, which possibly suggests that exercising in the evening is better for those looking to build muscle. A separate study found that exercising during the evening leads to higher levels of exercise induced testosterone, which further supports the idea that this is the optimal time for building muscle.
If exercising during these hours isn’t possible for you then try and adapt your exercise routine to take into consideration the weather conditions. For example, when the sun is out and the temperature is high, try and find a shaded place to exercise or a running route that is sheltered by trees. Asphalt and concrete radiate a lot of heat when directly under the sun whereas gravel and dirt remain relatively cool.
Exercising should not be hazardous, but it can easily become so if you are unprepared or not paying attention. During the summer, it is important to pay attention to your body and to not overlook things like sunscreen. Exposure to intense sunlight can cause the skin to burn in the short-term while in the long term it has been linked to a variety of different skin cancers.
In addition to staying hydrated, it is important that you maintain a good balance of electrolytes. There are a number of sports drinks designed for this purpose, although some of these have a very high sugar content, which may interfere with some people’s fitness plans.
If you suffer from asthma then be sure to check the weather conditions before exercising, particularly if you live somewhere that experiences an influx of visitors and vehicle traffic during the summer months. In particular, pay attention to the pollution levels, as these can rise more than many people realize and while most of us don’t notice it, asthma sufferers are more vulnerable to the effects of pollution.
If you exercise as part of a group, it is worth you and others taking a short course in CPR. The National CPR Foundation offers an online course for a small fee. While you will hopefully never have to perform CPR or have it performed on you, it is something that everyone should learn if they have the opportunity.
If while exercising you begin to feel dizzy or faint then stop immediately and find somewhere cool to rest and replenish your water and electrolyte levels.
Exercising during the summer months often feels like a very unappealing proposition, but with the right precautions and careful planning, there is no reason why exercising in the heat should be significantly worse than normal exercise. The most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated and keep your electrolyte levels up. Fruit is very good for this as it is mostly (around 80%) water while the remaining 20% contains many minerals, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
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