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Beating the heat

Sept. 24, 2010 at 4:24 a.m.


With the longer hours of sunshine, we all have the opportunity to spend even more time enjoying outdoor activities.

While having fun, it's important to remember the potential dangers that also come with exercising in the Golden Crescent's hot, humid weather. Knowing the dos and don'ts of working out in the heat will keep you safe all summer long.

What you should do:

. Drink plenty of water: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you're thirsty, you've already dehydrated yourself, so drink before you feel the need. Have a glass of water before you begin activity and continue to drink water throughout your workout. At the DeTar Health Center, we encourage our clients to drink water every 15 minutes while exercising.

. Eat regularly. High temperatures can make you less hungry, but it's important to eat normally. We recommend five to six small meals throughout the day - and yes, those meals should include fruits, vegetables and grains. In addition to being nutritious, fruit also provides extra hydration.

. Wear light, loose-fitting clothes that can breathe. Cotton is a good choice, as are items made from material that wicks the perspiration from the body.

. Use sunscreen. If the sun is shining, your skin is in danger of burning. And sunburn not only damages your skin, but it also hinders your body's ability to stay cool.

. Check the weather forecast. It's best to stay indoors when the heat index registers in the dangerous zone - which is much of the time here in South Texas.

What you shouldn't do:

. Don't skip the hydration step just because you're swimming. As with other exercise, your body still needs water. Regularly replenish lost fluids.

. Don't attempt strenuous exercise that your body is not used to doing. Stick to exercises you know.

. Avoid extreme changes in temperature. Don't jump from exercising in an air-conditioned gym to the extreme heat of a run outside at noon.

. Don't exercise outside during the hottest part of the day, which is usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

. Don't ignore your body's built-in protection system. Heat-related illnesses have warning signs: heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, weak but rapid pulse, headaches. If you have these symptoms, immediately stop exercising, find shade, slowly drink water, and seek medical attention if symptoms fail to improve or worsen.

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