Top Tips for Exercising in the Heat

As the temperature rises, so does our enthusiasm for outdoor workouts. With summers staying hotter for longer, how can you continue to exercise, even when it is hot?

If you are pushing yourself to exercise too hard when it is too hot, you do not just ruin your workout, you risk jeopardising your health.

Exertional Heat Illness, or EHI, is the term used for conditions that include heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (fainting), and heat cramps.

It is vital to listen to your body and be attuned to symptoms of EHI. These include headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and light-headedness. If you start to become disoriented, or you blackout or faint, it is serious and you need to get immediate medical attention.

This does not mean you cannot still exercise outdoors in summer. You just have to follow some more considered strategies.

Strategy 1: Timing is everything

In summer, the timing of your workouts is just as important as the length and intensity.

Dr Michael Bergeron is a sports medicine researcher and is globally recognised for his research on exercise-heat stress. He consults to international tennis, basketball, soccer, hockey, and martial arts associations.

Dr Bergeron recommends steering clear of the sun’s peak hours between 10am and 4pm, when temperatures are at their highest. Instead, he suggests scheduling outdoor activities during the cooler periods of the day, such as early mornings or late evenings. It minimises your risk of overheating and maximises your performances – and your enjoyment.

When you exercise in the cooler part of the day, your body expends less energy trying to cool itself down, resulting in improved endurance and reduced risk of heat-related issues.

Strategy 2: Buddy up

Exercising with a friend is good for your motivation anyway, but in summer, it is good for your health too.

Dr Bergeron advises having a buddy with you when you exercise in the heat, in case anything goes wrong. Heat stress can creep up on you, and it can help to have someone else telling you to slow down or take a break.

Strategy 3: Drink water, the right way

Do not wait until you are thirsty before you drink. Thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated.

How much to drink depends on the heat, the intensity of your exercise and your weight.

In advice for competitive tennis players, Dr Bergeron says you can lose between one and two and a half litres of water during each hour of competitive singles. Some players can lose up to 3.5 litres per hour. And although women generally sweat less than men, this is not always the case.

The key, according to Dr Bergeron, is to drink enough water before, during and after exercise.

  • Before your workout, make sure you are well hydrated and avoid caffeine.
  • During exercise, drink enough to feel comfortably full, even if you are not thirsty. If you are exercising for an hour or less, water is fine. Much longer and you might need a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink that includes sodium.
  • Afterwards, you need to replace lost fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates.