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It is well known that physical activity has many health benefits; however, exercising in hot weather can add stress to our body (1). Even healthy individuals need to take precautions exercising in high temperatures (2). People with medical conditions or taking certain medications can be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and/or have increased sensitivity to the sun. Ask your physician or pharmacist if it is safe for you to exercise in the heat (2, 3).
Be aware of the outdoor temperature and humidity level beforehand so that you can plan or modify your physical activity accordingly. In drier conditions we cool ourselves effectively by producing sweat which then evaporates. In high humidity we sweat more but it does not evaporate so we lose the cooling effect (1).
Plan strenuous activity for a cooler part of the day and choose an outdoor area with plenty of shade (2, 3). Air quality is also impacted by higher temperatures. If you are affected by air pollution, check the Air Quality Health Index at http://airquality.alberta.ca/map before heading outdoors to exercise (3). Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink you are already dehydrated. For longer periods of outdoor physical activity, sports drinks with carbohydrates and electrolytes may be needed to maintain endurance and prevent muscle cramps (2). Protect your skin. If it is not possible to avoid the sun or wear protective clothing, use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30. Look for one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (2, 4). Use a lip balm of SPF 30 or higher and wear sunglasses with UV protection. Reapply sunscreen frequently, especially after swimming or sweating. If using insect repellent as well, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent (3). Watch for signs of heat illness: dizziness, cramps, headache, rapid breathing and heart rate, nausea and/or vomiting and extreme thirst. STOP exercising if you notice any of these signs. Move to a cool place and drink water or other clear fluids (1, 2, 3). Allow your body to recover by staying out of the sun in a cool, shaded area or an indoor space that is air-conditioned (3).
Article Submitted by Jayne Heinrich, Registered Nurse with Dr. Prince
How to Exercise in the Summer Without Heat Exhaustion. The Weather Network, 2019-Jul-14. Retrieved from https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/news/article/how-to-exercise-in-the-summer-without-heat-exhaustion
Quick Tips: Staying Active in Hot Weather. HealthLink BC, 2019-Feb-20. Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/ad1203.
You're at Risk! Protect Yourself from Extreme Heat [2011 Health Canada brochure]. Health Canada, 2019-Aug-07. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/climate-change-health/you-active-heat-you-risk-protect-yourself-extreme-heat-2011-health-canada-brochure.html
Sunscreen FAQ: What are Sunscreens? Canadian Dermatology Association, 2019. Retrieved from https://dermatology.ca/public-patients/sun-protection/sunscreen-faq/