Cool Fitness in the Hot Summer Sun

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2018

Written by Asya Shiloff-Rogers

Edited by: Kiersten Tietz, Sandra Clark, and Emma Plater, MScPT

A lot of changes occur as the temperature rises and we enter the summer months. We spend more time outside, shed a few layers of clothing, and of course indulge in some frozen treats here and there.

In terms of our fitness, we make changes as well; we take our workout outdoors, or spend additional time at the gym in pursuit of our summer goals.

One thing that tends to remain unchanged is the way we choose to exercise. However, as temperatures rise, our health and our bodies change, and it’s important to make the necessary modifications to protect ourselves from the sun and heat.

Endurance Exhaustion1

One major change that occurs in the hot summer months is our endurance ability – that is, the ability to continually undergo activity up to the point of exhaustion. You have probably noticed that you get tired more rapidly in the heat, but why does this happen? The human body is constantly undergoing thermoregulation, which is a process that allows our internal temperature to remain constant while the temperatures around us fluctuate. When summer comes and the environment heats up, the body attempts to release heat by triggering certain processes to prevent overheating. Exercise activates these same processes, meaning when we exercise in heat, these effects can be magnified.

The human body’s main method of releasing heat occurs through the generation of sweat, which is produced by increased blood flow to the skin. As core body temperature rises, heart rate increases and the blood vessels near the surface of the skin widen

to promote sweating. All of these changes indicate that the heart muscle is working harder, as blood is pooling in our blood vessels rather than pumping back to the heart. With more work and less nutrients available to the muscles, fatigue is reached much faster in hotter temperatures.

In summary, rising environmental temperatures lead to a quicker increase in internal body temperature, thereby lowering the threshold for exhaustion compared to conditions in cooler temperatures.

  • 1. No, M., & Kwak, H. (2016). Effects of environmental temperature on physiological responses during submaximal and maximal exercises in soccer players. Integrative Medicine Research, 5(3), 216-222. doi:10.1016/j.imr.2016.06.002

How to Prevent Rapid Exhaustion in the Summer Sun

Cooling Down Before a Workout

A recent study shows that a solution to heat induced exhaustion during exercise may involve pre-exercise cooling2, which can help lower the core body temperature in order to increase endurance. In the study, it was found that pre-exercise cooling allowed for a higher intensity workout, or longer workout at lower intensity than had been seen without pre-exercise cooling.

The two most effective ways to cool down before a workout, as highlighted in the study, are ingestion of slush and cold-water immersion2. That’s right - drinking a slushy-like drink before your next workout may help you to run just a little bit further or faster. Cold water immersion is the most effective way to lower your internal core temperature before a workout, so you may want to try sitting in a cold tub, or going for a swim in the lake before taking on the heat with your next workout.

Read more about how to effectivel cool down before a workout.

  • 2. Jones, P. R., Barton, C., Morrissey, D., Maffulli, N., & Hemmings, S. (2012). Pre-cooling for endurance exercise performance in the heat: A systematic review. BMC Medicine,10(1). doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-166

Cooling Down After a Workout

Why is it important?

  1. Return breathing and heart rate to normal
  2. Prevent fainting/dizziness
  3. Reduce muscle spasms/cramps
  4. Reduce muscle stiffness and soreness (*By reducing lactic acid build up)
  5. Prepare body for next workout   

Information derived from: Anytime Fitness

How to Cool Down Before a Workout:

  • Leave time for low intensity exercises/stretches at the end of your workout

  • See FitnessBlender for a great cool down routine

  • Hydrate with COLD water!

  • Drinking cold water during, and especially following a workout can help your body cool down

  • Massage

  • Roll out those muscles, or better yet get massage to help breakdown lactic acid and knots in the muscle fibres To read more regarding massage after exercise, click here (link: https://www.verywellfit.com/massage-after-exercise-may-speed-muscle-recovery-3436572). 

Running in the Heat

Wear light clothing, including

  • Bright colors
  • Loose fitting – avoid the spandex in the heat
  • Cotton blends and other breathing fabrics

Run in shorter intervals

  • Avoid doing long, high intensity intervals (even if that is what you are used to)

Map your route. Whether you have a normal path or you’re trying something new, take a look at where you are running and keep the following in mind:

  • Run on gravel or dirt to avoid heat emitting concrete
  • Consider the time of day and try to map a path in the shade
  • Here's some more great tips on running in the heat

What if, after all your effort, you experience heat exhaustion?

It’s important to know the risks and signs of heat stroke and how to be prepared in case you do overheat. Mayo Clinic has a helpful page where you can find all the do’s and don’ts of heat related injury.

Cool Down with some Home Made Healthy Popsicles!

A great way to cool down on a hot summer day is with a fruity popsicle. A particularly delicious treat is a homemade watermelon strawberry popsicle, and it’s so easy to make!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped watermelon
  • 10 Strawberries
  • 1 Lemon
  • ½ cup water

Instructions:

Blend ingredients together in a blender or food processor and pour into Popsicle moulds before freezing for 4-6 hours.

For more amazing healthy popsicle and frozen treat recipes, visit Super Healthy Kids.