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Don’t let the heat fry your exercise routine

It could get a little discouraging when you're sweating before you even start your daily exercise program, when the sun bakes your skin and the humidity makes it difficult to breathe.

But, side-tracking your exercise routine until fall isn't a feasible answer to the summer's heat. We just need to adapt ourselves to the heat and push through it, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. We need to take care not to overtax our bodies. Higher air temperature – and exercise – both increase your core body temperature. To cool itself, the body circulates more blood through your skin, leaving less to power the muscles, which increases your heart rate. If the humidity is also high, the sweat isn't evaporating on your skin, which also pushes your body temperature up.

"The biggest problem is staying hydrated," explains Stacie McCarthy, EP, MS, an exercise physiologist with the Care New England Wellness Center. "Sweating drains your body of water, salt and electrolytes, which are important for your body's natural cooling system. If you sweat heavily and don't drink enough fluids, you can suffer from an array of heat-related illnesses."

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Dehydration can leave you dizzy, lethargic and sick to your stomach, but it's equally important not to drink too much water without electrolytes. This condition, called hyponatremia, can cause muscle cramps, seizures, nausea, and confusion. Both dehydration and hyponatremia, in extreme cases, can cause death.

McCarthy offers the following tips for exercising when the temperature or dew point soar:

  1. Go early or late in the day when the temperature is a little lower. Avoid exercising from 9 am to 3 pm, which is the hottest part of the day.
  2. Choose to work out in the shade – take a wooded path instead of the high school track in the blazing sun, for example.
  3. Slow your pace
  4. Switch to indoor exercising if the day is dubbed a "weather alert" day by the meteorologist. These days have high ozone and air pollution, which can damage your lungs.
  5. Listen to your body. If you start feeling headachy, dizzy, faint or nauseous, stop what you're doing and seek shade or a cool location to rest.
  6. Dress appropriately. Choose loose-fitting clothing made of cotton which helps wick away the perspiration from your body, as do high-tech running clothes. Wear lighter colors, which reflect the heat.
  7. Wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
  8. Stay hydrated. Drink a full glass of water before you go out to exercise and carry a bottle of water or a hydration pack with you. Drink at least every 15 minutes even if you don't feel thirsty. When you're done, have another glass or two of water.

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