Warmer, summer weather is here, and many individuals and athletes are feeling the urge to get back outside and active. While getting back in shape is essential, it is important to take it slow and not immediately begin intense exercise, as this can prompt injury. If you are planning to exercise outdoors throughout the summer months, try to avoid heat related illnesses by working out in the early or late parts of the day, when the heat, humidity and the sun’s rays aren’t as intense. Because heat-related illness can be very serious, and sometimes life-threatening; it is important to be aware of the signs of the condition, such as rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, nausea, and in more severe cases, seizures, delirium and hallucinations. Fortunately, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are preventable illnesses.
Other symptoms of heat-related illness include vomiting, headache, fatigue and/or weakness, dizziness, confusion and signs of dehydration, slurred speech and inappropriate/abnormal behavior. It is important to get a proper medical evaluation before beginning or changing an exercise routine.
Hydration is of upmost importance when exercising or participating in activities outdoors during the summer. Be sure to drink water before, during and after physical activity and drink before you are thirsty! If you’ll be participating in an activity for more than 45 minutes, your body would benefit from a drink with extra electrolytes as well as glucose, such as Gatorade. It is also important to be aware of signs of dehydration, such as thirst, headache, dizziness or light headedness, low blood pressure and feelings of tiredness or fatigue.
Your body only has about 45 minutes of muscle glycogen and when you use it your body will start breaking own muscle to make more fuel which is not the point of working out!
When you are exercising in hot weather make sure to dress appropriately. Instead of cotton, use clothing made of wicking fabric, which is designed to pull moisture away from the skin and use light colors rather than dark. If you do experience signs of a heat related illness, stop your activity as soon as possible, find a shady area, apply ice packs, and remove insulating clothing. If your heart does not slow after five minutes of rest, or if you show signs of confusion, call 911 immediately.
Dr. Zachary Smith is a sports medicine specialist for LeBauer HealthCare at Elam Avenue and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. He received a Bachelor of Applied Science in biology from the University of Colorado in 2006. Dr. Smith completed medical school at Midwestern University’s Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2010. He completed his residency in family medicine at Cone Health in 2013 and a sports medicine fellowship at the Cone Health Sports Medicine Center in 2014.