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Fit 4 Life | Don’t get burned by the summer heat

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:08 PMMarvin Gordon/Contributor
Excessively hot, humid weather can be damaging to health, and it becomes even more dangerous when you add exercise to the mix.

These days it feels like the summer sun has been turned up a notch. Whether you are putting the finishing touches on your beach body for the party weekend or trying to squeeze out a little more performance, it's hard to ignore the heat. And you shouldn't.

Excessively hot, humid weather can be damaging to health, and it becomes even more dangerous when you add exercise to the mix. However, there are a few steps that can be taken to ensure that training remains safe, even at the peak of the summer. In fact, studies have shown that you might even improve your results if you train right.

Why is training in the heat and humidity of the summer dangerous: it raises the risk of pushing body temperature to the point of heat-related illness. By itself, exercise raises body temperature. Adding sweltering summer temperatures places significantly more stress on the body as it attempts to keep body heat within a safe range.  

If your body's built-in defence mechanisms against heat fail, you will start to experience the symptoms of heat-related illness. These may range from the painful muscle cramps to the life-threatening heatstroke.

Whether training or carrying out everyday activities, look out for these symptoms as you endure the summer heat:

• Excessive sweating and/or thirst

• Muscle aches and cramps

• Nausea or vomiting

• Weakness and/or fatigue

• Headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness

• Low blood pressure

• Increased heart rate

• Irritability

• Confusion

The heat-related illnesses that may be induced by exercise include:

HEAT CRAMPS

While they usually don't cause permanent damage, heat cramps can be quite painful. The risk of heat cramps is higher when one sweats heavily, losing large amounts of water and salt, and usually affects muscles that are fatigued during periods of heavy work. The affected muscles sometimes feel firm to the touch and might spasm. Heat cramps could be a sign of more serious heat-related illness.

HEAT SYNCOPE

Heat syncope is the feeling of lightheadedness or fainting resulting from excessive temperatures. The lightheadedness or fainting happens because of reduced blood flow to the brain as the body attempts to cool itself. Dehydration also raises the risk of fainting.

HEAT EXHAUSTION

As the body temperature rises, one may experience nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, fainting, sweating and cold, clammy skin. These are the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke and should be treated as an emergency.

HEATSTROKE

The most severe heat-related illness, heatstroke could be fatal. Seek medical attention at the first sign of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. The symptoms of heatstroke include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness or vertigo, rapid heart rate, dry skin, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, blood in urine or stool, increased body temperature, confusion, delirium,  loss of consciousness, and convulsions.

Safety should trump all training goals. Stop exercise at the first sign of any heat-related illness. If body temperature is excessive or if symptoms – even if mild – don't subside with shade, lower temperatures, or the administration of fluids, seek medical help.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email: marvin.gordon@physiqueandfunction.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com