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Foundation Fitness and Rehabilitation

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Benefits of Training in the Heat

Studies have found that exercising in the heat helps improve athletic performance. This is especially true for endurance athletes.

For example, the University of Oregon conducted research on 12 highly trained cyclists. Each participant’s performance was assessed before and after a 10-day heat acclimation program. After this acclimation period, the participant’s performance improved by seven percent. 

These improvements transfer to those who also work out in cooler weather conditions. How?

According to the researchers, heat acclimation helps the body learn how to better control its core body temperature. This is critical in both cold and warm settings. Acclimation also improves skin blood flow and expands blood volume. This makes it easier for the heart to pump blood where it is needed most. 

Potential Consequences of Unsafe Training in Hot Conditions

Although training in the heat offers some benefits, it does have drawbacks too. 

The Mayo Clinic reports exercising in a high temperature environment can sometimes result in heat-related illness. The most common illnesses include:

  • Heat cramps – These are painful muscle contractions. Though caused by excessive heat, they can also occur when body temperature is normal.
  • Heat syncope – If the client feels lightheaded or faints due to high heat exposure, heat syncope may exist.
  • Heat exhaustion – This occurs when the body’s core temperature approaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, headache, and clammy skin. 
  • Heat stroke – If the core body temperature exceeds 104 degrees, heat stroke can occur. This results in feelings of confusion, heart rhythm issues, and vision problems. Immediate medical attention is necessary to help preserve the brain and organs. If untreated, death can result. 

Heat stress and heat-related illness are a major concern. Reduce this concern by helping clients acclimate to the heat and humidity common in summer training sessions.

Tips for Safely Training in the Heat

  • Drink lots of water. Dehydration occurs faster in hot environments because heat increases sweat rate. This makes hydration critical when exercising in hot weather. Harvard University suggests consuming 2-3 cups of water per hour if you’re sweating a lot. 
  • But don’t overdo your water consumption. It’s also important to note that you can drink too much water. This is called water intoxication and reduces the sodium in the bloodstream. This can cause headache, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, blood pressure rises, it’s harder to breathe, and the client feels confused.
  • Consume sports drinks for lengthy trainings. During longer workout sessions, water may not be enough. Because your sweat contains many chemicals and salts, these need replacing. In this case, sports drinks can replenish the electrolytes lost via excessive sweat. Sports drinks also supply a limited level of carbohydrates. This gives your body the energy it needs to continue to work out.
  • Avoid exercise during extremely high temperatures. If you live in a place where extreme heat is common, exercise when it’s a bit cooler outside. This limits the likelihood that you’ll suffer a heat illness. What’s the best time of day to exercise in this type of environment? Either early in the morning or later in the day.
  • Pay attention to the humidity. When it is both hot and humid outside, the body responds differently than in dry conditions. Specifically, humidity increases your sweat rate, which impacts your hydration. The Cleveland Clinic suggest not exercising if the humidity is over 80 percent and it’s 80 degrees or higher.
  • Wear the right clothing. Your body must be able to sweat to better control its internal temperature. Lightweight clothing assists with this. Wearing clothing in lighter colors is preferred as well since they don’t absorb as much heat as dark colors.
  • Monitor your heart rate. Heart rate increases 10 beats per minute for every degree the body temperature rises. So, wearing a heart rate monitor helps clients better identify whether their cardiovascular system is experiencing heat stress. Heart rate monitors can also signal if dehydration exists.