Tips for exercising outdoors during hot weather to avoid heatstroke

Staying hydrated is key to exercising during extreme heat.

Staying hydrated is key to exercising during extreme heat. Photo: ABC

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and exercise, especially if improving your fitness is one of your goals for the new year.

But with temperatures soaring across many parts of Australia, how can you keep up your exercise regime safely?

“We don’t want to use the heat as an excuse, but we do need to be careful and take precautions,” said Joanne Turner, an exercise scientist, sports dietitian and exercise physiologist.

Once temperatures top 35 degrees Celsius, exercising outdoors can be dangerous.

“Especially if your body is not used to it, you have medical conditions and you’ve never done it before,” Ms Turner told ABC Radio Canberra.

“It can be a life-or-death situation – if you overheat your body you can get heatstroke and you will need medical intervention.”

Exercise early, late or indoors

While the sunny outdoors may be an inviting environment to go for a run or cycle, in extreme heat Ms Turner recommended choosing an indoor option.

“Sweat it out in an air-conditioned gymnasium,” she suggested.

“What happens outdoors is people go out for 20 minutes and they start feeling unwell and turn around, but they still have a 20-minute journey on the way home.”

Photo of a woman running while sun is setting

Drink water often throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Photo: Getty

But if you’re intent on exercising outdoors, then head out early in the morning or late in the evening and avoid the hottest part of the day.

Try and choose a shady path to take and wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Taking to the pool is another great hot weather training option; swimming laps or pool running can give you a great workout.

Ensure you’re hydrated before you start

When it comes to staying hydrated, there’s more to it than just drinking water during exercise.

Ms Turner said the biggest problem with exercising in the heat was that most people started out dehydrated.

“Looking at the colour of your urine will actually tell you if you’re dehydrated or not.

“Don’t even go out if you’re already starting the day dehydrated.

“Take some prevention measures and make sure you’re drinking enough water at the end of the day to rehydrate yourself for the following day.”

Drink two to three litres of water each day, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, Ms Turner advised.

Carry water with you and drink often while exercising.

Wear loose, light clothing

While your body-hugging lycra or compression tights might look the part, when it’s hot you’re better off choosing loose, lightweight clothing.

If you’re outside, light-coloured clothing also helps reflect heat and sunlight.

Listen to your body

You may have an exercise schedule that you want to stick to, but there’s no harm in modifying your plans to accommodate the weather and how your body feels.

Moderate your exercise intensity, slow down and take regular rest breaks.

“When you’re trying to exercise you’re trying to be healthier and fitter, and part of being healthier is making sure you’re making healthy choices in how you’re exercising,” Ms Turner said.

“Is it the right type of exercise for you and are you conditioned to it?

“Does the exercise have to be outdoors? Does it have to be in the middle of the day?

“You can sweat it out but do you have to take a medical risk in doing so?”

And while Ms Turner acknowledged some athletes benefited from training in the heat, she pointed out that most had a medical team behind them and a conditioning program to follow.

“If you really want to train in extreme conditions, then speak to your doctor to make sure that you aren’t taking medical risks that you really don’t need to.

“We don’t need to be taking up medical beds for heatstroke.”


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