Safe Exercise In Summer Heat

We’ve got some tips to help you stay active safely when the mercury starts to rise.

Whether you love to walk through lilacs in bloom, enjoy our lakes from a kayak or canoe, or engage in a competitive game of softball or soccer, getting out and staying fit under summer skies is our reward for enduring Minnesota winters—especially this last one!

Warm weather is welcome, but when the temperatures rise, so does the risk of heat-related illnesses. The act of exercise and the air temperature increase your core body temperature, putting extra stress on your body. Your body’s natural cooling system responds by sending blood to the skin to cool you down. This means less blood for your muscles, which increases your heart rate. Humidity on top of heat compounds body stress because it prevents sweat from evaporating quickly.

These conditions can trigger a number of heat-related illnesses. Although illness symptoms may be mild to begin with, some of these illnesses can become dangerous if left untreated. The good news is that heat-related illnesses are preventable by drinking plenty of fluids, respecting heat alerts, dressing appropriately, and avoiding midday sun.

When you know what symptoms to watch for, you are better prepared to address signs of distress before they become dangerous.

  • Heat cramps. Athletes can suffer heat cramps even though their body temperature may be normal. Symptoms include painful muscle contractions of muscles that may feel firm to the touch.
  • Heat syncope. If you feel lightheaded or faint after standing for a long period of time in high temperatures, you could be experiencing heat-related collapse. Runners may also be experiencing a form of this heat collapse if the feel lightheaded or faint after finishing a race.
  • Heat exhaustion. This temperature-related illness causes your body temperature to rise as high as 104 F, and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, and cold, clammy skin. If these symptoms aren’t addressed right away, they can lead to heatstroke.
  • Heatstroke. This condition is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when body temperature climbs above 104 F. Symptoms include confusion, irritability, heart rhythm problems, dizziness, nausea, visual difficulty, and fatigue. Immediate medical attention is needed to cool down your body to prevent brain damage, organ failure—even death.

If you develop any of the signs or symptoms of these illnesses, you must promptly lower your body temperature and get hydrated. If possible, enlist someone to help you. Stop exercising, get out of the heat, and remove extra clothing. Fan your body, and cool down with cool wet towels, ice packs, a cool shower, or climb in a tub filled with cold water. If you aren’t feeling better within 30 minutes, contact your doctor.

When you are forearmed with tips to beat the heat, and can recognize symptoms of heat distress, you are in great shape to actively enjoy all that summer has to offer.

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