How to Be Active Safely in Warm Weather

man drinking during workout

Ample sunshine, longer days and warmer temperatures provide more opportunities for the whole family to get outside and get active in the spring and summer.  Try walking, swimming, biking, skating, jumping rope, building a backyard obstacle course or organizing a neighborhood soccer game.  Even gardening, pushing a stroller or walking the dog counts.  Learn the American Heart Association’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and the recommendations in children.

But when the temperature goes up, being active outdoors can be more challenging.  It’s easier to become overheated when the sun is beaming down all day.  The warm months also bring humidity to many parts of the country. With humidity, your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so your body has a harder time releasing heat. 

Be smart when working out

Keep in mind these six tips when it's warm outside:

  1. Timing is key.  Try to avoid exercising outside in the early afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 p.m.

  2. Hydrate.  Drink water before, during and after physical activity, even if you don’t feel thirsty.  Bring a bottle of water with you, or plan water stops along your route.

  3. Dress for success.  Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.  Moisture-wicking fabric also can be a big help.  Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat or visor and plenty of sweat-resistant sunscreen. 

  4. Listen to your body.  Take frequent breaks in the shade, and drink water before you’re thirsty.  Allow yourself time to adapt to the heat. Some experts say that this can take about 4-14 days.  Keep in mind that you may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual when it’s very hot.  

  5. Doctor’s orders.  Check with your health care professional before starting an exercise routine or moving your workout outdoors if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other chronic disease or any medical concerns.  Certain medications, including beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics, can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.

  6. Buddy up.  If you can, work out with a partner for safety, social interactive and fun.

Keep cool as you refuel

Try light, healthy pre- and post-workout snacks that can also help you stay cool. Try:

  • Chilled or frozen fruit.
  • Homemade ice pops made from 100% fruit juice or fat-free/low-fat milk.
  • Fruit smoothies.
  • Cold salads loaded with vegetables, beans, legumes and heart-healthy fish such as albacore tuna or salmon.
  • Crisp, chilled raw veggies including cucumbers, carrots or celery with a light, cool dip.
  • Cold sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice or slices of citrus or cucumber.

Beat the heat

If you find you can’t tolerate the heat, don’t skip out on your workout or physical activity time. Instead:

  • Find indoor locations where you can be active, such as a shopping mall, gym or community recreation center.
  • Discover activities you can do in your home or at work.
  • Adjust your workout schedule to early morning or late evening when it’s cooler outside.

Know the signs of heat-related conditions

Heat illnesses or emergencies can occur with exposure to high temperatures and humidity.

Dehydration can occur when you don’t replace body fluids lost by sweating.  Being even slightly dehydrated can make you feel bad and put you at greater risk for heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Signs of mild to moderate dehydration include:

  • Thirst.
  • Dry or sticky mouth.
  • Dry, cool skin.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Not urinating much or darker-colored urine.

Signs of severe dehydration include:

  • Not urinating or very dark-colored urine.
  • Dry, shriveled skin.
  • Irritability or confusion.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Breathing rapidly.
  • Fatigue or listlessness.
  • Unconsciousness.

Heat cramps are the first stage of heat illness.  They can share some of the symptoms of dehydration, including:

  • Muscle cramps and pains, often in the legs or abdomen.
  • Very heavy sweating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Thirst.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include:

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Weakness.
  • Cool, moist skin.
  • Dark urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

If you experience signs of dehydration, heat cramps or heat exhaustion:

  • Stop exercising right away.
  • Sip water or suck on ice cubes.
  • Move to the shade or indoors as soon as possible.
  • Douse yourself with cold water.
  • Apply cold, wet cloths to the neck, groin and armpits.
  • Seek medical attention if your condition doesn’t improve or gets worse.

Heat stroke is when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature, and it keeps rising.  This is a very serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. 

Call 911 and take the actions above right away if you experience these symptoms:

  • High fever (above 103˚F).
  • Hot, dry, red skin.
  • Fast, weak pulse.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • Irrational behavior or extreme confusion.
  • Seizure or unconsciousness.