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Stay Safe Exercising in the Summer Heat

June 23, 2015

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill


The summer heat can be just as dangerous to exercise in as the bitter cold and biting winds in the winter. There are a few things to keep in mind before venturing out into the elements this summer.

A morning jog prior to 10 a.m. is the best time to avoid the sun`s direct rays and the warmest temperatures. The other alternative is to schedule your workouts following the hottest part of the day, after about 4 p.m. Dizziness and fatigue, all symptoms of heat exhaustion, can occur if you decide to do midday workouts.

The sun`s rays are strongest in the summer, so it`s important to apply a sunscreen that has an SPF of 45 more than 30 minutes before going outdoors to protect your skin. Don`t be fooled by overcast days; even on these days, 80 percent of the sun`s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds.

Sunburn is possible in 15 minutes or less if you are fully exposed to the sun and don`t wear any skin protection. If possible, try to find a shaded trail to do your workout. If doing water exercises, reapply sunscreen after 80 minutes to avoid being burned.

Light-colored and loose fitting clothing will help reflect heat away from your body to avoid overheating. While clothing made of cotton will absorb moisture from your skin and make you feel cooler, an even better alternative are running shirts and shorts made of wicking fabrics such as polyester blends. These "wick away" fabrics are most effective at drawing moisture away from the skin, making it more comfortable working out on the hottest and most humid summer days.

If exercising in a large city, avoid streets that have a lot of traffic to limit your exposure to air pollution. Try to stay at least three car lengths away from the busy roads where pollution levels are lowest. Air pollution is lowest in the morning, so it`s best to get the workout done early instead of later in the day.

Water is very important to drink to stay hydrated, especially on hot and humid days. Drink a glass or two prior to starting your workout. If possible, carry a bottle of water or a hydration pack. The recommendation is to drink a glass of water every 15 minutes and then several more glasses after your workout is done.

For those long duration workouts lasting more than one hour, consider both water and sports drinks to replenish the excess perspiration lost during that time. Sports drinks will help absorb fluids and replenish lost sodium and potassium due to perspiration. Stay away from those with high sugar levels because they will slow down the water absorption process in the body.

Keeping these few things in mind before you head out the door this summer will keep your summertime exercises safe and healthy.

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Story Image: A runner makes his way to the finish line of a 5K race in Frederick, Md., earlier this summer.

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