The temperatures are rising outside, and at this point, most of us are probably spending a lot of time outside. With gyms still closed in many locations, people have been looking to get their exercise in the outdoors. While outdoor exercise is a fun, free, and healthy activity, there are certain precautions that should be taken when engaging in physical activity outside in high temperatures or humidity.
Sunscreen is a must for any time spent outside, whether you are exerting yourself or not. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Seek water resistant sunscreens if you will be sweating or swimming, and reapply every two hours, or as needed. Make sure you are covering your entire body, not just the parts of your skin that are obviously exposed. Keep in mind that no sunscreen, regardless of the SPF, can block all of the sun’s harmful rays on your skin, so take other measures as well, including wearing a hat or sun-blocking garment and seeking periodic shade.
Staying hydrated is another essential step to take when engaging in outdoor activity, especially anything strenuous. Drink water during the hour before you plan to head out for a run or bike ride, to ensure that you are not going into your workout dehydrated. Take water with you and sip throughout your activity, and if you feel any signs of dehydration, including headaches, dizziness, cramping, or strong thirst, cut your workout short and head somewhere you can rehydrate. You may consider drinking something that is supplemented with electrolytes when exercising in the heat, to help replenish those that you have lost.
Check temperatures and the weather before deciding when to exercise outside. On days with strong sun and little cloud cover, or when temperatures are very high, consider keeping workouts to earlier morning and later evening times, when it has cooled down and the sunlight is less direct.
Be aware of how your body reacts differently to exercising in the sun and heat as opposed to in cooler conditions or inside. The same 3 mile run you do on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym will require more energy when done outside in the heat. Take this into account and allow yourself to adjust to the temperature outside before ramping up your workout. Pay attention to your body, and slow down or take a break if you notice signs of exhaustion, dehydration, or overheating. Consider alternating between brisk walking and running on especially hot days. The Cleveland Clinic offers some helpful tips for staying safe during outside workouts.