Hot Weather, Cool Workouts: How to Stay Active in Summer
Here's how you can stay active despite the heat!
Summer means vacation time, tons of sunshine, but it’s also really HOT. The extra high temperatures can feel exhausting. It can be so tempting to just stay inside with a cold drink and not do anything. But keeping active is a key part of wellbeing: exercise keeps you feeling energized, improves your mood, keeps your body healthy, and prevents illnesses. Being outside and getting some sunshine also gives your health a boost, so I always suggest getting outside when you can.
How much exercise do you need? You should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of both. That can be something like 30 minutes 5 days a week, or 50 minutes 3 days a week, whatever fits your schedule. Doing more gives you additional health benefits too, and you should include strength training exercises at least 2 times a week. That can sound like a lot, so the key is to start small and build up a routine over time, you don't need to hit 150 minutes in week 1! Slowly build up your fitness and endurance so you can actually sustain your routine long-term.
Read on for my top tips to move all summer long, feel good, and build an active life through the seasons.
Hydrate hydrate hydrate - And hydrate some more. Even if you don’t notice you are sweating, in hotter temperatures, your body produces sweat to cool you down by evaporating from your skin. So be sure to drink throughout the day, especially if you do activities that make you breathe harder, since you also lose fluid that way. An insulated bottle with cold water can help you cool down and feel super refreshing. And if water gets boring, throw some chopped fruit or veggies in like citrus or cucumber to add flavor so you’re more likely to drink enough.
Look out for signs of even mild dehydration. Being tired can mean you’re not drinking enough. Other signs are feeling thirsty, dizziness, headaches, dry mouth and skin, weak or rapid pulse, muscle cramps, and dark colored or little urine production. If you do get dehydrated, replace fluids and seek medical help if necessary.
Add electrolytes - If you are sweating a lot or very active outdoors, water might not be enough to stay hydrated. You may need to add in electrolytes. These are minerals like sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, and are essential for bodily functions like muscle contraction and nerve function, as well as fluid balance. In particular, distilled and reverse osmosis water are not as hydrating because they have no minerals or electrolytes. Sports drinks are often recommended for athletes and active individuals, although they can also have a lot of added sugar to sustain high amounts of energy. You may be able to find electrolytes in powders without extra sugar, or add them in through food like bananas, avocados, and coconut water.
Time your workouts right - Adjust your routine to include exercise in the morning before it gets too hot. Morning workouts have the added benefit of boosting your energy throughout the day, improving your brain power and focus, and getting it done so you're less likely to put it off. If you really can't get your mornings going, exercising in the evening works too, but skip high intensity exercise too close to bedtime as it can disrupt your sleep. Be sure to stretch so your body can fully relax. Getting enough sleep is also crucial for energy and recovery.
Find enjoyable indoor movement - As nice as it is to get outside, you’ll probably have an easier time doing something active in a cooler, more comfortable environment. Try a fun group exercise class, get a gym membership, or add movement at home like online workouts, dancing, or even cleaning and running around with kids or a pet. It’s also much more enjoyable to keep active if you do things you actually like, rather than dragging yourself to do something you hate or just to lose weight. All movement matters!
Go for a swim - Fully embrace the outdoors and heat and spend more time in the water. Whether you have access to a pool, or are by the beach on vacation, a quick swim is a great way to move your body. Be sure to wear sunscreen!
Take breaks - Your body works harder to regulate your body temperature when you are very warm. Especially if you are active outside, your body is already working hard, so you might want to reduce your intensity to allow your body to cool down.
Look out too for signs of heatstroke, when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. A high body temperature (over 40 degrees) is the main sign of heatstroke. Other signs are confusion, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing and heart rate, headache, changes in sweating, and even seizures. In case of heatstroke, it’s crucial to cool the person down by any means, and also seek medical help if necessary.
Coffee, caffeine, and pre-workout supplements - You might have heard that coffee dehydrates you, but the good news for coffee drinkers is this is actually a myth! It is true that caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, meaning it causes you to go to the bathroom more often, but because coffee has fluids in it, the effect cancels out. If you consume big amounts of caffeine, especially caffeine supplements or energy drinks, be sure to replenish your fluids to avoid dehydration while working out. Even if it’s hot outside in an already hot country, a flexible and fun routine can help you keep your physical and mental health in check all year round!
Chella Po, MS, RD is a New York City-trained US registered dietitian who can be found on Instagram as @betterbeing.ph. She uses science to back up her professional advice for clients seeking to create a sustainable, healthy diet without counting calories, restrictive plans, or stress! Contact her for a free discovery call today.