Our Laurel physical therapists urge you to be careful when exercising in the sun to avoid heat-related complications

Laurel physical therapists outdoor exercise safety

May 22, 2019

Summer may not officially begin for nearly another month, but the recent stretch of weather in Maryland has certainly felt like it and ramped up excitement in the process. When extremely warm or hot weather does eventually arrive, it drives many to stay indoors to savor the cool confines of air conditioning.  For others, the high temperatures are no obstacle, and exercise routines continue outdoors in the sun, sometimes without much modification.  With this in mind, our Laurel physical therapists would like to offer some words of wisdom—and safety—to anyone planning on exercising outside on the hot days ahead.

Beating the heat isn’t just a matter of staying comfortable, but avoiding a number of heat-related complications that can come about if you don’t take appropriate precautions.  Too much heat without adequate cooling can have some serious consequences and may lead to issues like heat exhaustion, heat cramps, dehydration, and heat stroke.  Heat-related illnesses can become even worse in high humidity—which is common in Maryland—since sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily in these conditions.  This can prevent the body from releasing heat and cooling down properly, increasing the chances of experiencing one of these problems.

When exercise is added to the equation, these risks are even greater. If you don’t drink enough water—which is often more than you think you need—you can get dehydrated.  This can cause you to feel light-headed and nauseous, and can lead to other serious issues if you don’t do anything to address it. On the other hand, if you drink too much water but don’t replenish your electrolytes with sports drinks or other sources, you may experience a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia. This means that the level of sodium (an electrolyte) in the blood has become much lower than normal, and it leads to symptoms like confusion, nausea/vomiting, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps.

At CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services, our Laurel physical therapists understand that exercising outdoors is important and that many of you will continue to do it despite these risks.  While we certainly wouldn’t attempt to stop you from doing what you love, we would like to encourage you to be smart and safe when you do by following these tips every time you exercise in hot weather.

Safety tips for exercising in the heat from our Laurel physical therapists

  • Avoid exercising between 10 am-3 pm, which is the hottest time of the day; early morning is usually the best time of day to exercise
  • Follow the weather forecast and be sure to check for extra high humidity levels
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and keep your body cool
  • Choose shaded trails and pathways, and try exercising out of the sun
  • Slow down your running pace and/or reduce your intensity level
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and sports drinks with electrolytes not only when you’re thirsty, but throughout the day, especially when it’s really hot
  • Know the signs of heat-related issues like dehydration and hyponatremia
  • If it’s too hot, be smart and exercise indoors or take the day off

Know your body.  Know your limits.  Don’t overdo it.  These are the most important words you should keep in mind every time you step out the door to work out, as doing so will help you stay active throughout this spring, summer, and beyond.  But if you do happen to suffer any type of injury in the process, our Laurel physical therapists can help.  Contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services today at 301-776-9443 to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Laurel, Glenn Dale/Bowie, Hyattsville, or our newest location in Silver Spring, MD, or click here for more information on exercising safely in the heat.