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How to exercise safely and effectively in a heatwave

4 MIN READ • 18th July 2022

Let’s get something clear from the get-go: you do not have to work out in a heatwave if you don’t want to. Fitness goals and personal bests can wait; missing one session won’t hinder your progress.

But, if you are exercising today, there are ways to do it safely and effectively.

Luke Hughes, level 4 personal trainer and founder at Origym says: “There’s no denying that the heat makes most activities more challenging, but with that added challenge also presents an abundance of benefits for the body; so exercising in high temperatures certainly shouldn’t be something you’re running away from. 

Exercising in hot, humid weather does come with health risks though, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so it is important to know any warning signs, risks, safety measures to take and also when to stop. Understanding these means you can still enjoy working out during those hotter months and stay safe at the same time.”

Here’s how to safely workout when it’s hot whilst still getting the most out of your training:

Hydrate during your workout

Start with a full glass of water and continue to drink regularly throughout the day, especially if you are exercising in the afternoon or later that evening. 

Ensure you take a bottle of water to your workout to top yourself up. Drinking sips of water approximately every 10 minutes will keep you hydrated efficiently.

Stick to water, sports drinks, diluted fruit juices and teas during the summer months for the best advantages of hydration. Avoid drinking alcohol or coffee before or after your exercise as they increase the rate of dehydration.

Hydrate post-workout

Following a workout, you’ll need to replace all the fluid you lost through sweat. Follow Origym’s ‘Sweat Reset Calculation’ to find out exactly how much water you need to drink to rehydrate after your workout:

  • If you’re planning a workout that day, weigh yourself naked beforehand. Ideally first thing in the morning after going to the toilet.
  • Once you have finished your workout, go to the toilet, and weigh yourself again naked.
  • Calculate the difference in weight and how many kilograms you have lost.
  • For every kg of weight you have lost, make sure you drink at least 1.5 litres of water.

Wear clothing that keeps you cool

Origym strongly advise opting for loose-fitting, lightweight clothing with light colours that reflect the sunlight.

Also, choose breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. They allow hot air to escape, whilst pulling moisture away from your body. This type of fabric enables sweat to evaporate; the best fabrics for running in higher temperatures are nylon, polyester and polypropylene. Stay away from 100% cotton. Though breathable, cotton absorbs sweat and won’t dry quickly, so it’s likely to become uncomfortable and ultimately affect your performance. 

If you’re outside, opt for a lightweight hat or visor (which you can freeze the night before or dampen with cold water) to keep the sun from your eyes, protect your head and reduce the risk of encountering heat and sun stroke. 

Keep your body cool

Exercising in the heat can feel challenging to cool down, so a great tip is to freeze your bottle of water the night before, and take it out the freezer 15-20 minutes before you exercise. The ice will thaw in time for your workout and the water will stay colder. 

Don’t overdo your warmup, with the temperatures being higher, your muscles will warm up quicker. A 5-10 minute walk before you start running or exercising will help you adjust to the temperature without overheating.

Whilst exercising, pause to splash water on your head, back of the neck, under arms and insides of your wrists.

Adjust your expectations

Exercising in the heat and humidity affects performance and can put a strain on your body. It can be frustrating, but we recommend adjusting your expectations and save any fitness challenges for cooler months.

Don’t push yourself too hard – take lots of breaks to hydrate, rest and cool down. If at any time you feel dizzy, lightheaded or unwell at all, it’s best to stop training altogether.

Avoid the hottest parts of the day

Although there isn’t a perfect time of day for running or exercising in hot weather outside, or avoiding the heat and humidity entirely; working out closer to sunrise or sunset when temperatures are lower is best during the hotter months. 

It is best to avoid exercising outside in high temperatures that tend to fall between 10am and 4pm, as this is when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest. Even when it’s the cooler parts of the day, still stick to shaded areas.

Replace vitamins and minerals

Valuable vitamins and minerals are lost through sweat and muscle repair in hot weather. Therefore, it’s important to get enough of the right nutrients to support your recovery and replace any necessary nutrients that you are losing. 

Below are key vitamins and electrolytes that can be lost in hot weather, and what you can eat to replace them:

  • Sodium chloride: salted nuts, trail mix, crackers, popcorn, pickles, jerky
  • Potassium: bananas, melons, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi
  • Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, figs, cashews, peanuts
  • Calcium: dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, dairy-free milk drinks with added calcium, green leafy vegetables
  • Iron: red meat, beans and pulses, nuts, dried fruits such as apricots, fortified breakfast cereals
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, peppers, berries, broccoli, potatoes
  • Zinc: meat, shellfish, dairy foods, bread, fortified breakfast cereals

How to spot the warning signs of dehydration

You are dehydrated when your body loses more fluids than it has taken in. If it’s left untreated, it can become a serious issue. Dehydration can occur more easily if you have been in the sun too long and sweated too much during exercise.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Urinating infrequently, e.g. fewer than 4 times a day

A pharmacist can help with dehydration by recommending oral rehydration sachets. However, if you have serious dehydration symptoms such as the below, call 999 or go to A&E. 

Symptoms needing urgent treatment include: 

  • Feeling unusually tired
  • You’re suffering from confusion or disorientation
  • Dizziness that doesn’t go away when you stand up
  • You haven’t urinated all day
  • A weak or rapid pulse
  • You have a fits or seizures
Meet the writer
Daniella Gray
Senior content writer

Daniella is senior content writer at Health & Wellbeing magazine, which combines her love for writing, food and fitness. Daniella’s love of glossy magazines began when she’d steal copies of her mum’s Marie Claire and buy the latest... Discover more

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