Physical exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. The Centers for Disease Control recommends setting a goal of at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity in a variety of types of exercise.  Most people prefer to exercise outdoors because they enjoy fresh air and feel more energized. Being outside offers an opportunity to be in nature and can lower stress levels — an easy “cure for the summertime blues.”  It may also turn into a social experience due to the possibility of seeing friends or neighbors. You’ll be more likely to stick to your fitness routine if you enjoy it more.

But your enjoyment of outdoor activities may be affected by inclement weather. Any day has the possibility of being labeled too hot, too cold, too wet, too muddy, too rainy, too humid, too sunny, etc.  If you wait for the perfect day and the most ideal weather or temperature, you may never get outside to exercise! Learning to adapt to all kinds of  weather will help you to keep on track with your fitness goals.

Here comes the sun … and the humidity

Summer comes around every year and we know that it’s going to be hot! Keep in mind that when it comes to exercising in the heat, the best way to adjust to it is to consistently exercise in it. Our bodies are very adaptable.  As your core temperature heats up, your brain will tell your body to perspire in order to cool itself down. Over time, your body will become more efficient and begin sweating more quickly in response to your exercise. 

If you’re like me, you may live in an area where you also have to deal with high levels of humidity, which can literally take your breath away.  Oftentimes, you may think you’re out of shape because of the breathless sensation you experience when exercising in high humidity. Humidity prevents the sweat from evaporating so the perspiration stays put on your body, making you feel hotter.  Also, the humid air is saturated with moisture, making it harder to breathe.  As the body tries to cool itself down, it makes the lungs work harder so your respiration rate increases, which in turn speeds up your heart rate.  When this begins to happen, you may feel out of breath. This is the time you need to SLOW DOWN and take a longer rest break —  and drink water!

Follow these tips to learn to enjoy exercising outside in the summer:

  1. Dress for the weather.  In the summertime, choose sports clothing and  socks  in lightweight, breathable fabrics made from synthetic materials such as acrylic and polyester because they have sweat/moisture-wicking and anti-chafing properties. Cotton T-shirts and socks can get wet, heavy, and squishy.
  2. Wear a lightweight, moisture-wicking, breathable or vented hat to help block harmful rays from your head and face, which also helps keep sweat from rolling into your eyes.
  3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  4. Wear sunscreen above SPF 15 to protect your skin.
  5. Run early in the morning or later in the day when the temperatures are cooler and the sun isn’t as hot.
  6. Carry water with you or know where there are water fountains along the way.

And a few more recommendations, regardless of weather:

  1. After you exercise, you should replenish your body with water (or an electrolyte) to compensate for any increase in sweating. Coconut water is a healthy hydration choice because it is low in natural sugar and also contains electrolytes that the body needs, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  2. No matter what the outside temperature is, you need the right footwear. I recommend going to a local sport store for assistance in proper fitting. Don’t pick a shoe merely because of the style, color or the brand;  it needs to be right for the physiologics of your foot and the way your foot strikes the ground when you walk.
  3. Also, always be aware of your surroundings. If you choose to wear earbuds or headphones to listen to music or a podcast while running, keep the volume low so you can hear what’s happening in the environment around you.

Summertime blues

If you ever feel overwhelmed by heat and humidity, be sure to move inside or to a cool, shady place to rest and drink water.

If you start to experience dizziness, headache, vomiting, confusion, excessive sweating or lack of sweating, rapid heartbeat or muscle cramping, lie down and elevate your feet and apply a cool towel if possible. Call 911 if your symptoms don’t improve.  

The good news is, the body generally adjusts to hot and humid temperatures in approximately two weeks. However, certain medications can make you more susceptible to heat-related stress, so it’s best to consult your doctor before beginning any new outdoor fitness routine.