Whether it’s cycling, strength training or running – athletes should be careful when the temperatures are high! Training in the heat affects our bodies and can be life-threatening. FITBOOK asked an expert what to consider if you want to exercise safely even in high temperatures.
When the sun is shining and warm, the desire to move the training outdoors is especially great. However, if temperatures suddenly rise dramatically, exercise puts blood circulation under a lot of stress. So much so that it can become dangerous for us. Exercising in the heat carries risks that can be reduced with a few measures.
Why is exercising in the heat dangerous?
When the temperature rises or when we exert ourselves physically, we start to sweat. What some may find annoying and uncomfortable is a clever and vital mechanism in our bodies. By evaporating the sweat we release when our body temperature is too high, the body loses heat and thus cools down again.1
This body cooling mechanism can be disrupted by high external temperatures and humidity and thus puts stress on the body. Sweat is no longer able to evaporate properly, which increases body temperature. In addition, more blood is transferred to the skin for the purpose of temperature regulation, which means that less blood reaches the muscles that maintain circulation, such as the heart. If you exercise in the heat, your body temperature can continue to rise and your body’s thermostat can fail. In the worst case, this can lead to heat stroke or a collapse in the circulatory system.2
Expert gives advice for exercising in high temperatures
Sports in the heat are generally allowed and of course healthy too. However, some precautions should be taken in very high temperatures and strong sunlight. FITBOOK has put together some tips for this and asked expert Sabine Kind, a lecturer at the German University of Prevention and Health Management (DHfPH), what to consider.
Reducing the risk of heat stroke and sunburn
When you fully immerse yourself in your training, you often don’t realize how harsh the sun’s rays really are. In more severe cases, according to Sabine Kind, a sunburn on the scalp can cause headaches — and if nausea, fever, and dizziness are added, it could be heat stroke.
So over-the-head protection is important—but thankfully it’s easy to implement, “preferably with a hood,” says Kind. “It could be a baseball cap, a sun hat, or a helmet.”
Also interesting: what helps treat sunburn?
Choose the right time of the day
Unlike team sports, where the individual has little say in training times, you can choose the time of day for your own sports program more freely. If possible, you should move your jogging session to early morning or evening.
If training is possible only in the afternoon or afternoon, then it is better to look for cooler places, for example in the forest for running. It’s dark out there and there are also lower levels of ozone, even on hot days.
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Cardiovascular patients should be especially careful
Those who know they have a disease need to be especially careful. Cardiovascular patients in particular should consult their physician before exercising in hot weather.
It is important that all athletes drink a lot. After all, the body loses more fluid through increased sweating. In addition to the recommended 1.5 liters per day, summer athletes should drink 100 milliliters of water, in small sips, approximately every 15 minutes during training. An extra large glass of water right before your workout, and afterwards it’s best to reach for mineral water to bring back sweaty nutrients like sodium into the body.
Also interesting: can you actually drink a lot of water?
Don’t forget to use the cream
The SPF you need depends on the strength and duration of the sun’s rays and your skin type. According to Sabine Kind, if in doubt, you should opt for a slightly higher SPF to avoid sunburn.
“Especially in the mountains and on the water, especially intense protection is required,” says Sabine Kind. So at higher altitudes and where the sun is reflected and shining more strongly. When buying, also make sure that the product is water-resistant or sweat-resistant.
Also interesting: What should I look for when it comes to UVA and UVB protection in sunscreen?
Ideally, you can apply sunscreen half an hour before going out in the sun and then reapply it from time to time. Please don’t forget the exposed areas – like the transitions of the head covering.
The protection of the so-called sun terraces is also of particular importance. This includes areas exposed to the sun such as the forehead, ears, eyes, lips, nose, neck and crown of the head. “It’s best to use a high SPF and apply the cream regularly,” Kind advises.
Even if it’s hazy, sunscreen shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Even when the sky is cloudy or the temperatures are cooler, you should apply lotion all over your body and under your clothes,” says Sabine Kind. “Regular gym clothing can transmit up to 30 percent of the radiation.”
But there are also clothing with certified UV protection, especially for water sports. However, he also left here: the transition points from leather to fabric. If you don’t use sunscreen, you can easily burn yourself.
Also interesting: a dermatologist gives tips for proper sun protection
Don’t forget the sunglasses
It greatly reduces the risks of UV rays on the eyes. As FITBOOK mentioned in a previous article, there is a risk of skin cancer in the sensitive area with thin skin around the eyes.
Sabine Kind sees it the same way. “For activities, it is therefore recommended to use non-slip sports glasses with a high UV factor,” says the expert. “If you are not sure, it is best to ask an ophthalmologist and ask for advice.”
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The body gets used to the heat
In the early days of summer with temperatures soaring, sitting in the sun is stressful enough for many not even thinking about sports. This is because the body must first get used to high temperatures again. It usually takes seven to 14 days before you feel more productive again under the new temperature conditions. From now on, it is easier to do sports in the heat.3
1. German Society for Sports Medicine and Prevention (2017). Sweating during sports is important and true (Accessed July 14, 2022).
2. O’Connor, F.G. et al. (2019). Stressful heat diseases in adolescents and adults: epidemiology, thermoregulation, risk factors, and prognosis. UpToDate (Accessed 14.7.2022)
3. Tyler, C. J. et al. (2016). Effects of thermoadaptation on physiology, cognition, and exercise performance in the heat: a meta-analysis. sports medicine.