Oregon is shining. The sun is out and so are we. It’s summertime and we can boast some of the best, most pleasant weather in the country, dare I say, the world. We have mild temperatures, low humidity and long summer days. It’s light at 5AM and light still at 9PM. It is an exerciser’s paradise. To walk, to hike, to bike, to run, to swim, to jump, to skip…perchance, to play. We Oregonians do it all but we must be careful as temperatures rise when doing all of those activities outdoors.
Three things to keep in mind when exercising or being physically active outdoors are:
• Your skin
• Your comfort
Although listed as three separate entities, hydration, your skin and your comfort are all part of your physical well-being and safety. I’d like to talk about the importance of each and show you how you can exercise safely in the summer no matter where you are or what the conditions by following some simple tips.
Hydration is a matter of fluid in and fluid out. We must keep our body temperature at 98.6 degrees. As we exercise, we generate a lot of heat. The physiology of our bodies is amazing. We have our own built in cooling systems. We sweat. As the temperature rises, our sweat evaporates and we cool down. That’s why we’re lucky to be in Oregon. The same exercise done in Virginia or New Jersey at this time of year would be much less comfortable because of the higher degree of humidity. The drier the air, the more quickly sweat evaporates. That’s why humid climates are so uncomfortable even if you are merely breathing! I’ve breathed and run in both places and I know this to be true! So, keep hydrated. “Fluids need to be replenished frequently. 8-10 ounces of water should be consumed every 20 minutes of exercise.” (1)
When you are outdoors, your skin should be protected. This can be done with clothing and with sunscreen, depending on your activity or exercise. If you are walking and it’s warm or even hot, loose, light clothing that covers your skin offers direct protection. Wearing a hat or visor, sunglasses and sunscreen gives you added protection.
If you are doing more strenuous exercise such as running or biking, wear clothing that fits the sport. Every sport has its technical clothing. For runners, the word is “wicking.” Wicking is the manner in which clothing moves sweat away from your body towards the outside environment where it is then evaporated and you will feel more comfortable. Go into any running store or sport shop and you will find a variety of styles of “hydrophobic yarns” that will “wick away your water.” You will find such names as ClimaCool, Dri-Fit, Lightning Dry and Drylete Sport. Some clothing even offers SPF, sun protection factor, built into it. Check the labels. The choice of style, color and price range is yours to make.
The third and final component of exercising in the summer heat is your comfort which includes the first two, your hydration and your clothing. Your comfort depends much on what is really common sense. If it’s going to be one of those unusual but possible over 100-degree days in Oregon or anywhere you may be visiting, go out early in the morning or later in the day. Decrease the intensity and duration of your exercise session. Cover yourself with clothing and/or sunscreen and be sure to drink enough water or other fluids. We Oregonians are a hearty bunch. We go out in rain, cold, wind, snow and sometimes icy conditions. Now that it’s summer, we can revel in the joy of our reward for enduring a long, cold, wet winter.
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As a nurse, I’d like to pass along one final bit of important information. You may find yourself in some hot weather in the next two-to-three months whether here in Oregon or while traveling in warmer climes. It may be someone in your own family or perhaps a stranger in a stadium on a hot day. It’s good to know and recognize the symptoms of heat- related illness. “Heat related illness can happen when the cooling system of the body is overloaded. The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, which is characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, rapid pulse and nausea.” A more serious and life-threatening emergency is heat stroke which can occur if the symptoms of heat exhaustion are ignored. “Body temperature may reach above 105 degrees due to the body’s inability to cool itself. Skin is typically hot and dry because sweating has stopped. As an exerciser, it becomes very important to pay attention to how your body is feeling in hot conditions to avoid these preventable outcomes.” (2)
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So here’s to your active summer. Stay fit. Stay hydrated. Wear something cool, even hot! And while you’re at it, wear a smile! Take good care of yourself.
1,2. Kristin Johnson, professional fitness trainer, Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch, McKinney, Texas.
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM