Utah summers are beautiful, but exercising outdoors in the heat can be hazardous. It's possible to exercise outdoors in hot weather, but it's important to be aware of how the heat can affect your body. Overexercising in the heat can make you feel miserable and ruin an otherwise good workout, and it can also lead to the dangerous conditions of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps and more. There are several factors to consider when exercising outdoors in hot weather:
Heat Index: The heat index considers temperature, plus humidity or dew point to assign a value to how hot human beings will feel under given conditions. A heat index below 80 is considered comfortable, and one above 100 is considered dangerous. Humid air keeps sweat from evaporating, which interferes with the body's cooling process. Humidity is not usually a problem in dry Utah, but during thunderstorm periods humidity can be high.
- Wind: Wind is cooling at temperatures below 72 degrees, but at temperatures above 72 degrees wind increases perceived heat. This can definitely be a problem in Utah, where bouts of hot, windy weather can make runners and hikers feel like a turkey in a convection oven. Both wind and temperature rise as the day progresses, making morning workouts preferable.
- Environment: Factors such as sun exposure, shade, hot pavement or other surfaces can affect perceived heat. Stay out of full sunlight whenever possible. Plan a route that includes shade, and use sidewalks or dirt trails rather than hot asphalt.
- Hydration: It's important to avoid dehydration, because sweat evaporation is the body's main way of cooling itself. If you are dehydrated, you will not be able to sweat enough to cool off, and core temperature will rise. Drink 16-20 ounces of water an hour or two before exercising in the heat, and sip water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Drink an electrolyte-replacing sports drink if you are going to be sweating profusely for more than 90 minutes.
- Clothing: Ditch the sweat pants and cotton t-shirt when exercising in the heat. Lightweight, loose clothing that allows sweat to evaporate will keep you much cooler. High-tech sweat-wicking fabrics are designed to allow air flow while wicking sweat away from the skin. Good quality, summer weight sport socks are also helpful.
- Fitness: If you are very new to exercise, unfit, have a medical concern or are obese, use special caution when exercising in the heat.
- Tips and Tricks: Cool off by pouring water on your head and neck. Fill water bottles half full and freeze them ahead of time to keep water ice cold. You can also put ice directly into a hat, sports bra or shorts. These techniques can extend the amount of time you can exercise in the heat and still feel comfortable.