Long summer days give us plenty of time to exercise outside after work (or before work, for you early risers). And those summer bike rides, trail runs and laps in the pool are extra healthy: Research shows that outdoor workouts can reduce stress and boost mood better than indoor ones. But physical activity in summer heat also has some risks, including overheating and dehydration. So while you’re out there working up a sweat, remember these tips for staying safe.
1. Drink early and often.
This one may seem obvious, but be sure to have plenty of water when you exercise outside. Dehydration does a lot more than make you thirsty: It can cause fatigue, crankiness and brain fog, and even lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Experts recommend 14 to 22 ounces of cold water two hours before you get started, and 6 to 12 ounces for every 20 minutes of exercise. Learn more about the importance of staying hydrated from Sharecare fitness expert Lisa Lynn.
2. Start out slow.
Stick to shorter, easier workouts in the beginning of summer to acclimate your body to higher temps. This will build up your tolerance for spending more time outdoors and keep you from being wiped out after exercising. “Progressive training in the heat prompts certain physiological changes that reduce the risk of heat illness and help you perform better,” says Michael Bergeron, PhD, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
3. Use a shot glass.
Make sure to slather on the SPF (guys, don’t skip this step) to reduce the risk of painful sunburns now and skin cancer down the road. Experts recommend using a full ounce – about the amount that fits in a shot glass – to cover your face and all exposed areas of your body. Apply sunblock (SPF 15 or higher) at least 20 minutes before you go outside, and reapply every two hours while you’re working up a sweat.
4. Be a smart dresser.
Cotton t-shirts may be comfy, but because they absorb moisture they aren’t a good choice for summer workouts – not even long walks. (Who wants a sweaty shirt?) Choose clothes that are breathable and designed specifically for the heat. They’re generally made of a cotton/polyester blend that helps to wick sweat away from your skin.
5. Know these warning signs.
Overexertion in the heat can lead to heat cramps – an early sign of heat exhaustion that can lead to heat stroke. Keep an eye out for these signs: muscle twitching and tenderness in the abdomen, arms or legs; nausea; vomiting; weakness and fatigue. If you start to experience these symptoms while you’re exercising outside this summer, stop what you’re doing and head for the shade or indoors.