EXERCISE AND SAFETY IN THE HEAT
It seems that the summer heat has really increased lately. What is important to know to be able to work and exercise safely outdoors this time of year? Here in the Deep South we need to be wary of several factors concerning outdoor activity and safety this time of year. Not only are the temperatures steadily climbing into the 90’s, but the high humidity and direct sunshine also combine to aggravate the situation. Exercise and physical activity cause the body to increase its own temperature and in conjunction with the high outdoor temperature problems can soon arise. First of all use common sense and limit your initial exposure to the elements slowly. No matter how in shape you think you are, you must take time to become acclimized to the environment or the consequences could be deadly.
Heat exhaustion and the very life-threatening heat stroke are not uncommon for Southerners but if you apply a little common sense and know-how you can avoid their effects. Acclimization refers to the body’s process of becoming slowly adapted to a climate or situation, in this case, the heat, humidity and direct sunshine. This might mean initially spending only a few minutes per day outdoors working or exercising, then gradually adding a little more time each week.
Keep in mind that your age, fitness, health, and medications will affect how you adapt to the elements so be honest with yourself and don't over do it. Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids (mainly water) before, during and after activity. Sports beverages are usually only necessary if you have been active and sweating heavily for 90 minutes or more.
Don't wait until you are thirsty as you will already be in a state of dehydration by then. Many sports clothing manufacturers have clothing that is specially made for the heat, and sunglasses and a visor are always a wise addition to help keep you safe in the hot weather. As previously mentioned be especially cautious of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and the ever deadly heat stroke which are:
Symptoms: Fatigue, weakness, blurred vision, dizziness, headache.
Signs: High pulse rate, profuse sweating, pale face, collapse, normal to slight increased body temperature.
First Aid: Lie flat on your back in a cool environment, drink water and loosen clothing.
Symptoms: Chills, restlessness and irritability.
Signs: Red face, shivering, disorientation, erratic behavior, convulsions, high body temperature (104 F)
First Aid: Immediate, aggressive cooling and transport to the hospital.
SCOT E. LONG, MSS, CSCS
DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE WELLNESS
GREATER JACKSON YMCA’S
ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF KINESIOLOGY @ MISSISSIPPI COLLEGE