Many Austinites are choosing to exercise outdoors to stay active and continue social distancing. But now that triple-digit heat is upon us, it’s important to stay aware of heat-related illnesses while exercising.
Board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Greg Westmoreland spoke to KVUE News Austin to provide some important information about how to safely exercise in the Texas heat.
Is it safe to exercise in the heat?
Exercising in the heat can be safe if done correctly. When you exercise in the heat, the increased temperature puts extra stress on the body. Under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels, and perspiration level will adjust to the heat, but these natural cooling mechanisms may fail if you’re exposed to high temps for a long period of time. Excess sweating can lead to dehydration and muscle cramps.
How to avoid overheating while exercising outdoors.
Most importantly, allow your body to acclimate. If you normally exercise indoors or in cooler temperatures, allow 1-2 weeks to adapt to the heat. Take a slow and steady approach.
Dr. Westmoreland recommends the following tips when exercising outdoors in warmer temperatures.
- Exercise early in the morning or in the evenings to avoid the mid-day sun.
- Drink fluids before, during and after your workout routine to stay hydrated.
- Take breaks and rest in the shade.
- Choose lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing.
- Use wet towels or ice packs to cool down.
What are the symptoms of heat-related illness?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, take a break indoors or in the shade, sip water and allow your body temperature to cool down.
- Increased heart rate
- Increased thirst
- Fast or heavy breathing
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, faint
- Heat cramps
Should you wear a mask while exercising outdoors?
When you exercise with a mask, you are exhaling carbon dioxide and then breathing it back in, which could lead to problems if you over-heat. The mask itself may also increase your heart rate – as much as 8-10 beats faster per minute – when coupled with strenuous exercise. If you become lightheaded or dizzy while exercising with a mask, Dr. Westmoreland recommends removing the mask and taking a break in the shade or indoors.
Click here to watch Dr. Westmoreland’s entire KVUE interview.