Summer Fitness Safety

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A simple walk down the block can take on a whole new level of enjoyment on a sun-soaked summer afternoon.   It's a perfect time of year to increase your activity level but it's also a time of year to be mindful of the heat--and for a lot of misinformation.   When magazines talk about swimsuit season they also tend to run articles about so-called "miracle" diets to help you get a beach-ready bod with minimal effort.   Don't believe the hype--incorporate changes to your diet and exercise routines slowly for lasting results. Crash dieting or jumping up to extreme exercise routines too fast can be dangerous for your body, especially during the dog days of summer.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), temperatures above 70 degrees and/or humidity levels above 70 percent, add stress on your cardiovascular system during exercise because they interfere with your body's natural cooling process.   To help keep your body temperature from overloading, exercise in light, breathable clothing and work out in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day.   Figure on drinking 8 oz. of water for every 15 minutes you exercise in extreme heat and work out with a partner. On scorching days, avoid risk by working out inside an air-conditioned gym.   However, if you do find yourself exercising during the hottest parts of the day, stay safe by knowing the symptoms of dehydration, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion.

Dehydration: If you are getting a lot of outdoor exercise in high heat, the AHA recommends weighing yourself each morning.   If you are lighter than normal, by say two pounds, it's possible that you're dehydrated and need to drink a few extra glasses of water before heading out for your workout.   Symptoms of dehydration include infrequent urination and urine with a dark color and/or odor.   Exercising when you are dehydrated can be dangerous because when you lose too much fluid, your body temperature rises and your nervous system doesn't work properly. Extreme fluid loss can lead to brain and heart damage, and dehydration is usually the starting point for heat exhaustion and heatstroke.   If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop your workout, and try to cool off as fast as possible.  When in doubt, call 911.

Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include heavy sweating; cold, clammy skin; dizziness or fainting; a weak and rapid pulse; muscle cramps; fast, shallow breathing; nausea and/or vomiting.

Heatstroke: Victims of heatstroke may have warm, dry skin with no sweating; a strong and rapid pulse; confusion and/or unconsciousness; a high fever; throbbing headache; and nausea and/or vomiting.

Heatstroke can be fatal in severe cases, so make sure to keep a cool head out there.   Victims should lie down and elevate their legs and apply cool compresses or ice to hands, feet, and head. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.   Remember--summer is a great time for exercise, and a great time for fun outdoors.   Just make sure to stay safe while you're doing it.

For more tips for fun summer activities and healthy summer snacks, check out:

American Heart Association: Summertime Heart Healthy Tips
Totally Her: Healthy Summer Snacks
WebMD: 8 Summer Steps for Healthy Living

- Jeff Koelemay


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