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Exercise in hot weather is OK for kids — with precautions

August 08, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Recent research shows that children's bodies can handle heat stress as well as adults', though strenuous activity in hot weather should be monitored.
Recent research shows that children's bodies can handle heat stress… (Lucas Jackson / Reuters )

Exercising in hot weather used be considered somewhat dangerous for kids. Doctors believed that children's bodies couldn't handle heat stress as well as adults' bodies.

According to recent research, however, that is simply not true. Kids and adults exercising or working in hot weather have the same skin and rectal temperatures and cardiovascular response. That is good news for a nation with high rates of childhood overweight and obesity.

"Most healthy children and adolescents can safely participate in outdoor sports and other physical activities through a wide range of challenging warm to hot climactic conditions," wrote the authors of a new policy statement in the journal Pediatrics on Sunday.

They note, however, that both children and adults can suffer from heat-related illness and that strenuous activity should be monitored. In just the last two weeks, several high school football players have died from heat-related illness.

According to the new policy statement, children suffer heat-related illness due to these factors:

  • Poor hydration
  • Undue physical exertion
  • Insufficient recovery between repeated exercise bouts
  • Closely scheduled same-day training sessions or rounds of sports competition
  • Inappropriate wearing of clothing, uniforms or protective equipment

"[E]xertional heat illness is usually preventable," the authors said.

Adults monitoring children's activity in hot weather should bear in mind that one set of safety rules may not suffice for everyone, and that age is not the primary consideration. A healthy, hydrated, rested 12-year-old may be able to compete in a soccer game in hot weather, while an overweight, high-school football player who has recently been ill may be unable to sustain a high-performance practice in the same weather conditions without more breaks for hydration and rest.

It seems the message emerging for coaches and supervising adults is to refrain from demanding that everyone meet the same level of exertion and to avoid having kids compare their performances to each other. What's safe for some could cause heat stroke in others.

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