How to Exercise in the Heat

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Although summer doesn’t officially start for another three weeks, sweltering temperatures have hit most of Canada. Not surprisingly, research shows that we’re inclined to be more active in warmer weather.

But when temperatures soar above 30C and humid conditions make you sweat profusely, how active will you want to be outdoors? Most people would say not very. Although the high temperatures may overwhelm us, there is a simple strategy that can help you stay active even when it gets hot.

One of the best ways to ensure you continue to perform at your peak in hot temperatures is to acclimatize your body to the weather. This strategy is used by most professional athletes, such as those playing in the upcoming World Cup, who know they will be performing in hot conditions.

Acclimatizing your body does take time, so be patient and give yourself a few weeks to work up to your regular intensity. Most acclimatization programs require that individuals exercise at a low intensity for a prolonged period of time and slowly increase the intensity of each workout. This means that you should start exercising at a pace that allows you to not feel out of breath for a period of 30-45 minutes. If you’re gasping for air, you’re exercising too hard. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when you start exercising in the heat is if you normally run five kilometers in 25-30 minutes, you may want to ease up on your stride and add 5-10 minutes.

Although you’ll see almost immediate improvements in your performance after a few days, the full effects of acclimatization take approximately two to three weeks, depending on the frequency of your workout regimen. During the acclimatization process, your body slowly adapts its cardiovascular functions, such as reducing heart rate, ultimately allowing you to exercise with a higher core body temperature. One thing to keep in mind though: The effects of acclimatization wear off with inactivity, so be sure to keep at it.

Even though you may get used to exercising in the heat, take special care of yourself and pay attention to your body. Stay well hydrated, wear light and lose fitting clothing, don’t forget your sun block, and take rests when they are needed-your body knows when it’s had enough. The summer is a great time to stay active and even exercise to your fullest, just do it safely.

About Author:

Paul Gorczynski is currently pursuing his PhD in exercise psychology at the University of Toronto. His research looks at psychological and environmental factors that influence exercise participation.

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