Tips for safe exercise in the heat

Exercise is crucial to maintaining heart health, but with summer in full swing it’s important to factor in outdoor temperatures when you’re planning your activities for the day.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, or are on medication to control certain risk factors, always check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Certain heart medications can exaggerate the body’s response to heat. In addition, when you exercise the heart is bringing blood and oxygen to your muscles and needs to pump harder to keep up with the fluid you lose due to sweating.

Here are some things to keep in mind to help you stay heart healthy during a long, hot summer:

Adapt

Don’t let the heat be your excuse to NOT exercise—instead, adapt! If you’re planning to exercise outdoors, try to schedule your workout for early morning or late evening hours when the sun is less intense and the temperatures tend to be cooler.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks. Find a cool place to stop for a few minutes, hydrate yourself, and then continue with your workout.

Hydrate

Staying properly hydrated is critical. Most guidelines recommend about eight glasses of water per day, and if you’re exercising or having a very active day you should add one or two glasses to replace fluids lost due to sweating. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, please talk to your doctor about the appropriate guidelines for your specific needs.

A lot of people are curious about sports drinks as well—when do you need them, when do you not? Remember, sports drinks are laden with sugar and other ingredients making them a far less healthy option compared to water. However, if you’re doing vigorous physical activity that lasts over an hour, especially when temperatures are hot, you need to replace fluids and electrolytes. You’ll also want to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as they can dehydrate you quickly.

Certain foods can be powerful hydrators, too. Foods like watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes have high water content and they’re part of a heart healthy diet.

Dress for Success

If you’re staying outside, dress for the heat by choosing lightweight, light-colored clothing and breathable fabrics or fabrics that wick away moisture from the skin. A hat or sunglasses and sunscreen with SPF 30+ are also a must.

According to the American Heart Association, people who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about seven years longer than those who are not active and obese. It’s important to stay motivated during the summer months, and by thinking ahead it’s easy to continue with your heart healthy habits in a safe way.

Looking for a recipe to make your own sports drinks or fruit-infused water? Check here.

Author
Jerome Segal, MD Anne Arundel Medical Center
Jerome Segal, MD, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Heart Institute at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He can be reached at 410-897-0822.
Originally published June 23, 2015. Last updated May 20, 2019.

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