10 Safety Tips For Exercising in the Heat

If you’re not prepared, exercising in the heat can have tragic consequences. Heat-related illnesses are largely preventable. By taking some basic precautions, your exercise routine doesn’t have to suffer when the heat is on. If you are not careful, you can end up experiencing a heat-related health condition such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion or extreme dehydration, all of which can greatly derail you from your fitness goals. Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. 

Heat wave ahead, exercising in the heat

Some people are at greater risk than others while exercising in the heat. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that infants, children, people that are 65 and older, those who are overweight, who are or have been ill (especially with high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia or poor circulation) and even people who overexert during exercise may be at greater risk for a heat related illness. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help you safely work out even on hot summer days.  

The warning signs and symptoms of heat related illness from the CDC

English text heat related illness symptoms and signs
Spanish heat related illness signs and symptoms from the CDC

Take steps to help you safely work out even on hot summer days


too hot

Follow these 10 tips and tactics for working out in the heat:

  • Timing is everything. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is known for being the hottest time of the day in the summer. Try to limit your outdoor activity when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. If possible, exercise in shady areas when working out in the heat.
temperature exercising in the heat
  • Watch the temperature. Pay attention to the weather forecasts and heat alerts for the time of day you expect to be outside. The exercise, as well as the air temperature and humidity, can increase your core body temperature. 
  • Get acclimated.  If you have been used to exercising indoors, especially through the winter months, you should take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. The Mayo clinic suggests that it can take at least one to two weeks to adapt to the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over time, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
  • Know your fitness level. Be extra cautious when working out in the heat if you are reconditioned or new to exercise. Your body may have a lower tolerance to the heat. Take frequent breaks and start with a lower intensity workout. Listen to your body and stop exercising if you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous, or tired. Get into a cool area or in the shade, rest, and drink fluids.  
  • Wear appropriate workout clothing for the heat such as lightweight and loose fitting articles which will help keep you cooler, and help sweat evaporate. Avoid dark colors that can absorb heat.
  • Dehydration is a key factor in heat illness. Help your body sweat and cool down by staying well hydrated with water. If you plan to exercise for more than 60 minutes, you may want to consider sipping on a sports drink. Sports drinks are helpful when working out for prolonged periods of time, especially in the heat, because they contain potassium and electrolytes that can rehydrate and replenish your body. The higher levels of sodium may actually be good for your body as well as sodium is a key ingredient for a hot day. Stay away from sugary or alcoholic drinks. These can actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

CDC Warning 

*If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask your doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

*If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic- conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking sports beverages (salt and mineral content) or consuming salt tablets.

Drink More Water when exercising in the heat
use water activities when exercising in the heat
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen. A sunburn can affect your body’s ability to cool itself down and can make you dehydrated as well as increase the risk of skin cancer. Use SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out and reapply it according to the package directions. Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels. 
  • Summer is the perfect time to add water activities, especially on hot days. Try adding swimming, pool workouts or event stand-up-paddle boarding (SUP) to your outdoor exercise routine. These are great ways to cross train as well as staying cooler as you exercise in the heat. If you prefer to run, try running through a sprinkler or run during a light rain. Running in a little bit of rain won’t harm you, but if you hear thunder or see lightning, return inside to safety as quickly as possible.  
  • Have a back up plan. There may be times when you are  concerned with the heat or humidity. You may consider hitting the gym instead, taking a spin class or yoga class. Find the exercise clubs in your area that allow you to pay a “drop in” to workout. There are plenty of workouts on YouTube or other exercise apps that you can access for a home workout as well.
  •  Understand your medical risks.  There are certain medications as well as medical conditions that can increase your risk of a heat related illness. Talk to your doctor about precautions to take before exercising in the heat.

Look for warning signs when exercising in the heat.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you choose to exercise outdoors in the heat, pay attention to your body temperature to reduce the risk of serious heat-related conditions, including heatstroke. Signs and symptoms of heat-related illness may include muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, fainting, dizziness or headache, excessive sweating, low blood pressure, and vision problems. If you begin to experience any issues, stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. It’s very important to lower your body temperature and hydrate right away. You may place cool, wet towels or ice packs on your neck, forehead and under your arms; spray yourself with water from a hose or a shower; sit in a tub filled with cold water.  Drink fluids, such as water or a sports drink. If you don’t feel better within about 20 minutes, seek emergency medical care.

You can safely exercise in the heat by following these guidelines and have fun, stay cool, and be safe this summer!

Read other articles by Pilar: Set S.M.A.R.T Goals, 11 Tips to Healthy Eating On the Run

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *