Staying Hydrated During Summer Exercise
It's important to stay mindful of hydration, even as the days begin to cool. When the heat index gets past a certain point, the air can feel heavier, and you might even be working harder to breathe. How do you maintain your goal fitness level when it's so hot outside? The key to being safe is staying hydrated.
Damaging Effects of Dehydration
People have trouble dealing with extreme temperatures in the summer because their bodies are not used to them. In general, the human body has the ability to acclimate to different climates, up to a certain point. When we spend most of our time in air-conditioned rooms, there is little exposure to the heat. Then, if we go outside for the weekend and participate in vigorous exercise, it is almost impossible for our body to handle the change. Heat related illnesses can happen quickly, often without warning. These include heat exhaustion, cramps, and stroke. For some cases, they are followed by a potentially irreversible coma. The good news is that heat sickness is preventable; it's all about being prepared.
Listen to the weather reports and temperature readings for the days you are planning to be outside. Typically, if the temperatures reach above 90 degrees, or in cases of high humidity, the need for hydration increases substantially. On days where a heat advisory has been issued, it might be a good idea to stay indoors. You can still get a lot of quality exercise at a gymnasium or with home fitness equipment. Whether it is extremely hot or not, be careful in summer months, and know where you are going at all times. Make sure that there is a water resource nearby, such as a fountain or convenience store. And of course, bring your own bottles and water packs to use for the time you will be outside.
The amount of water you should drink before physical activity depends on which form of exercise you will be doing and its length. Marathon runners should drink two cups of water a couple of hours before their run. One to two cups of water are recommended before shorter exercise sessions.
Do not make the mistake of waiting until you are thirsty to drink while exercising on hot days. Throughout the activity, monitor your water intake and drink small amounts of water every 15 minutes. It is also essential that you replenish your body's fluids after the exercise is finished.
Drinking too much water can also be a serious problem. In addition to bloating or discomfort, hyponatremia (when more fluids are consumed than lost and sodium balance is disrupted) can occur, and is sometimes fatal. To avoid this, drink the recommended amounts of water, which are: four to six ounces every 15 minutes during activity, and eight to 16 ounces after the activity.
Any exercise that is less than 90 minutes can be accompanied by water as the main form of hydration. However, if the exercise lasts for longer than 90 minutes, it is helpful to drink a sports drink that will replace the electrolytes. Overall, a consistent and responsible intake of fluids will keep your body hydrated, and keep you healthy at the same time.