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5 Ways to Keep Your Cool While Exercising

By Maggie Barrett

a woman running

Summer is here, and the warmer, sunnier weather and longer days have inspired many people to abandon the gym and exercise outdoors.

But even the most fit gym rat needs to take steps to avoid heat injury, especially heat stroke.

"Not every case of heat stroke is fatal, but some cases are," said Stacey Snelling, associate dean of American University’s School of Education, Teaching and Health. "Once you have experienced heat stroke, you need to be even more careful as you are more susceptible to it because you have ruined your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that regulates body temperature."

Snelling, who has taught undergraduate and graduate health promotion programs for the past two decades at AU, offers these steps to anyone who wants to engage in any kind of physical activity outdoors during the summer.

1) Plan Your Outdoors Activity for the Coolest Time of Day

"Many people think the evening is the coolest time of day, but actually, it is early in the morning just before the sun rises," Snelling said. "If your schedule will not accommodate an early morning workout, wait until at least 5 p.m."

2) Clothing Matters

"Clothing choice is important. Wear light colors as they reflect light, and items made from moisture wicking material, not cotton, which absorbs sweat and feels heavy when saturated," Snelling said. "Also, wear as little clothing as possible."

3) Take It Slow

"Acclimatization is how our bodies gradually adjust to the heat," Snelling said. "Take it slow the first couple of weeks, gradually increasing the intensity of your workout—but listen to your body. If you start feeling sick or dizzy, stop immediately to rest, cool down, and hydrate."

4) Stay Hydrated  

"Drink water while you are active, but also, weigh yourself before you exercise outdoors, then again after you are done," Snelling said. "Drink enough water to replace what you lost during your activity—one pint of water for every pound you lose."

5) Don’t Forget the Sunblock

"Numerous brands make light-feeling and sweat resistant sport sunblock formulas that won't run in your eyes," Snelling said. "If you have long hair, wear it up so that the sweat on your neck can better evaporate to keep you cool."