I love a good run outdoors in the summer. Whether it’s the walk around the Cooper River at our house or the promenade in Sea Isle City, working up a sweat and experiencing “Runners High” is a great feeling. Yes, outdoor exercise is a great way to live healthily and increase your wellbeing by connecting with nature – unless Mother Nature turns the heat a little too high.

This summer brought extreme heat to many areas in the United States, including the Philadelphia area. Record temperatures are becoming more common and climate change is causing more intense heat waves, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has a direct impact on human health, including heat-related illness and death. On average, there are about 700 heat-related deaths in the United States each year.

The increased potential for excessively hot weather can make your outdoor exercise routine even more complex, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from getting the benefits. With just a little strategy and good judgment, you can create a portfolio of contingency plans to use in hot weather.

Pay attention to the warning signs

The National Center for Environmental Health says it can get too hot to get sick. If your body can’t balance the heat and cool you down properly, you can get sick.

The main factors affecting your body’s ability to cool off in extremely hot weather are high humidity and personal factors, the center says. Sweat does not evaporate as quickly in high humidity. This prevents your body from releasing heat as quickly as it needs it to.

In addition, age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, circulatory disorders, sunburn, and the use of prescription drugs and alcohol can all play a role in whether a person can cool off properly in extremely hot weather. The people most at risk include people with chronic illnesses and those aged 65 and over.

Under normal conditions, the skin, blood vessels, and sweat adapt to the heat, explains the Mayo Clinic. But these natural cooling systems can fail if you are exposed to high temperatures and humidity for long periods of time, you sweat profusely, and you drink too little fluids. The result can be a heat-related illness.

If left untreated, the disease can include:

• Heat cramps, sometimes called exercise-induced muscle cramps
• Heat syncope, feeling light-headed or faint
• Heat exhaustion, which can lead to nausea or vomiting
• Heat stroke, a life-threatening emergency.

The experts at the Mayo Clinic urge you to watch out for warning signs. If you notice them, immediately stop exercising and get out of the heat.

Maintaining your exercise program

According to the US Public Health Service, summer weather doesn’t have to interfere with your outdoor exercise regimen. Her recommendations for exercising in hot and humid weather include 10 minutes of rest per hour, changing wet clothes frequently, avoiding the midday sun by exercising before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m., using sunscreen, and wearing light, breathable clothing.

For good hydration advice, see the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Opinion on Exercise-Related Heat Disease. The coaches say that athletes should start exercising fully hydrated and drink regular fluids if the exercise duration exceeds 40 minutes. They find that diluted carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are best for fluid replacement and also provide some substrate for muscle training. Post-exercise rehydration requires electrolyte and volume replacement.

Take your workout indoors

Of course, there are indoor workouts that can provide a bridge until the weather cooperates. The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation offers the following ideas: work out in an indoor gym with good air conditioning and ventilation, take part in online yoga, dance, Pilates, or high-intensity interval training, go to the indoor pool swim or take a studio or gym class in an air-conditioned venue.

Although I enjoy being outside, the treadmill works well and I’ve been fortunate to have access to gyms at home and on the waterfront. Local schools, the YMCA, and urban recreation centers are all alternatives if the temperature rises to serious levels.

I previously presented the case that science shows that exercise in nature has greater health benefits than doing the same activity indoors, and that people are more likely to be physically active when done in a natural setting. So there is no question that there are benefits to being outdoors whenever possible. By following these tips, you will maximize your ability to stay connected with nature. If the right reputation is getting in there are strategies here that can serve you well.

If the last 16 months have proven anything, it is our ability to be flexible and to remain resilient in the face of ever-changing conditions. Climate change certainly poses a serious threat with global repercussions and very personal repercussions. Sound familiar? Likewise the answer.

When it comes to maintaining your healthy behavior, understand the challenge, plan accordingly, and stay strong and committed to your wellbeing. You and your loved ones will be better off.

Louis Bezich, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Cooper University Health Care, is the author of Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50. Read more from Louis on his website.


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