Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to avoid heat-related illnesses

To keep it cool during hot-weather exercise, keep these basic precautions in mind:

* Take it slow . If you're used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first. As your body adapts to the heat, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. If you have a chronic medical condition or take medication, ask your doctor if you need to take additional precautions.
* Drink plenty of fluids . Your body's ability to sweat and cool down depends on adequate rehydration. Drink plenty of water while you're working out — even if you don't feel thirsty. If you're planning to exercise intensely or for longer than one hour, consider sports drinks instead. These drinks can replace the sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol, which actually promote fluid loss.
* Dress appropriately . Lightweight, loosefitting clothing promotes sweat evaporation and cooling by letting more air pass over your body. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb the heat. A light-colored hat can limit your exposure to the sun.
* Avoid midday sun . Exercise in the morning or evening — when it's likely to be cooler outdoors — rather than the middle of the day. If possible, exercise in the shade or in a pool.
* Wear sunscreen . A sunburn decreases your body's ability to cool itself.
* Have a backup plan . If you're concerned about the heat or humidity, stay indoors. Work out at the gym, walk laps inside the mall or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.