Five Hot Tips to Safely Work Out When the Mercury Rises

Tonja Ward | 2/19/2009, 7:05 p.m.
With temperatures hovering near "oven" territory, if you or your kids are outside playing, working or exercising make sure you ...

1) Know the facts about dehydration. "Anyone can get dehydrated, but children, women, older and overweight individuals are particularly susceptible," says Gilliam. "When we exercise, we sweat, and sweat is the loss of fluid and many electrolytes…critical to normal physiological function” (i.e potassium, sodium, calcium, and chloride).

"Dehydration is extremely dangerous," he adds. "The worst-case scenario is heat stroke. If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to death. But there are other concerns, too, such as muscle cramping and the breakdown of muscle tissue."

2) Do regular "hydration checks." Don't just assume you're hydrated simply because you aren't feeling thirsty. You can monitor your hydration status (and that of your kids) with: · Urine assessments: If the volume of urine is diminished and is a deep yellow, you are either dehydrated or becoming dehydrated.· Weight checks: During extreme temperatures, weigh yourself daily. A loss of more than 2 percent of your body weight following an exercise routine is a loss of fluid. If the "fluid weight" is not replenished before your next exercise routine, you are more susceptible to dehydration. " is extremely important for young athletes participating in fall sports with summer drills and pre-season games," says Gilliam.

3) Sports Drinks are for Athletes. If you are an athlete training in a hot, humid environment “a sports drink would be helpful because of the electrolytes” advises Gilliam. Diluting it 1 to 1 with water is a good idea because “the sugar in the sports drink may slow the reabsorption of fluid back into the digestive tract.”

If you exercise just for fitness, drink water. “I do not recommend casual exercisers consume sports drinks,” states Gilliam. “The loss of electrolytes that occurs during exercise is easily replenished with a person's diet” Plus “the calories in most sports drinks will negate the calories expended during the exercise routine.”

4) Be careful not to over hydrate. It is possible to drink too much water. Endurance athletes in particular need to be careful about over hydrating. They're susceptible to hyponatremia, which is a severe dilution of the sodium in the body that can lead to death. This does not occur very often, but it illustrates why you don't want to go to extremes with fluid replacement.

5) Don't soak up too many rays. Give careful thought to what you wear when out in the extreme heat. While you want to expose as much skin as possible to accelerate heat loss, you don't want to get too many harmful UVA and UVB rays. "Choose white or light-colored clothing because it repels the heat," suggests Gilliam. "And be sure to protect your skin with sunblock and your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses."

Don't shy away from summer exercise or outdoor work. All the hot-weather worries in the world pale in comparison to the health benefits you're reaping from regular physical activity. "Regular exercise not only keeps your weight at a healthy level, it helps you prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, and a myriad of other serious health issues," he notes. "But you have to make it a part of your everyday lifestyle. That means you don't get summers off! So even if you have to alter your routine—moving indoors to a fitness center or even joining the mall walkers in their air conditioned comfort—do it" this way you won’t lose momentum.

Thomas B. Gilliam, Ph.D., is the founder and president of T. Gilliam Associates, coauthor of the book Move It. Lose It. Live Healthy.: The Simple Truth About Achieving Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight, www.moveitloseitlivehealthy.com.