Question: I've been walking with two of my girlfriends every morning before we take our kids to school. Recently the heat has been getting to us--even so early in the day. We enjoy our outdoor workout time together, and it wouldn't be easy for any of us to drive 20 minutes to the gym (especially when school's out and the kids are home during the day). Can you give us some fitness tips for exercising outside in the summer?
Answer: With a few modifications to your usual routine, you and your friends can safely continue your outdoor workouts this summer.
First, tune in to your local weather report for warnings about prolonged periods of excessive heat and humidity. Such conditions, most common between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., put even top athletes at risk for heat cramps or heat exhaustion. If you can't exercise in the morning, it's wise to postpone your exercise session until late in the day.
Even so, everybody's heat tolerance is different. You might have a higher or lower tolerance than your friends. Although it's true that you can tolerate heat and humidity more effectively if you're in good shape, you can also build up tolerance. People who exercise outdoors in the same region year-round become accustomed to the higher temperatures.
Listen to your body. If you experience lightheadedness, nausea, excessive sweating or the inability to sweat, get help immediately. A higher-than-normal heart rate while exercising can also indicate a heat-related problem.
To prevent heat cramps, heat exhaustion or life-threatening heatstroke, drink plenty of fluids. Consume at least 8 ounces of water 30 minutes before you exercise and at least 4 ounces every 15 minutes during your activity.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. (Also, some athletic clothes are designed to wick sweat away from your skin while exercising.)
Wear sunscreen, UVA and UVB protection sunglasses, and a hat to keep your face out of the sun and your head cool.
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, check with your doctor before exercising during high heat and humidity.
Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. To submit a fitness-related question, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. She cannot respond to every query.