Exercising in Austin means dealing with heat much of the year. Our average high temperatures in June, July, August and September run well above 90 degrees, sometimes more than 100, usually accompanied by plenty of sunshine. Instead of turning into a couch potato for the summer, though, play it smart. Maintaining body hydration is paramount. In the heat, dehydration occurs more frequently, with more severe consequences. The American College of Sports Medicine advises drinking water four hours and then again about 20 minutes before exercise, then every 30 minutes of exercise. This continual intake of fluids is better than rapid fluid replacement (gulping down a lot of fluid post-exercise), which stimulates increased urine production and actually reduces your body’s water retention. Most of us are fine with an extra eight to 16 ounces of water. You only need the added salt and potassium of those energy and sports drinks if you exercise for 90 minutes or more, and depending upon how much you sweat and the heat index. Otherwise, these drinks give you excess sodium and calories. Before and after exercise, avoid caffeinated liquids such as soda, coffee and tea, as well as protein drinks and alcohol. The US Public Health Service suggests these other tips for being active in the heat:
- Exercise in the morning or evening to minimize thermal stress. Your heart works harder during exercise to provide blood and oxygen to muscles, and when it’s hot, it also sends blood the skin to be cooled by sweat evaporation. This added work increases the stress on your heart.
- When it is hot and humid, rest 10 minutes for every hour of exercise. You may want to slow your pace a bit, too, to avoid overtaxing your heart.
- Wear light-weight, breathable clothing and change wet clothing frequently.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or lower, as those with higher ratings can interfere with the skin’s thermal regulation.
- Use this website to calculate the heat index, which is what the current temperature and humidity actually feel like to your body. For example, 90 degrees at 70 percent humidity (typical for Austin summers) feels like 106 degrees!