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Take precautions to beat the heat

Health & Fitness

Summer is officially here and, as is normal in Albany, we can expect many hot, sweltering days ahead. In the excessively warm and often humid conditions that frequently occur in the summer months, heat stress can be a real threat for individuals who engage in intense exercise activities. This applies to exercising outdoors or indoors in facilities without air conditioning.

Be aware that exercise in hot, humid conditions can cause significant dehydration in a short period of time. To avoid heat injury, an individual should take precautions regarding hydration, acclimatization, and proper clothing. The following guidelines will lay out specifics in each of these three areas.

HYDRATION

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following hydration guidelines.

Before exercise

Check your hydration status before exercise because there is a wide variability in fluid needs for each person.

• Drink 16-20 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage at least four hours before exercise.

• Drink 8-12 fluid ounces of water 10-15 minutes before exercise.

Consuming a beverage with sodium (salt) and/or small meal helps to stimulate thirst and retain fluids.

During exercise

• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when exercising for less than 60 minutes.

• Drink 3-8 fluid ounces of a sports beverage (5-8 percent carbohydrate with electrolytes) every 15-20 minutes when exercising greater than 60 minutes. Do not drink more than one quart/hour during exercise.

After exercise

• Obtain your body weight and check your urine to estimate your fluid losses. The goal is to correct your losses within two hours after exercise.

• Drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage for every one pound lost

Athletes often ask about the temperature of fluids consumed during exercise. Cold water is refreshing and better manages core temperature because it pulls heat from your body as it warms to body temperature. Extremely cold water is sometimes difficult to consume in large quantities, but since your water bottles will warm up quickly, it's still good to start out with cold bottles or an ice/water mixture on very hot days. Warm water will get the job done too; it's just not as refreshing and doesn't do much to lower core temperature immediately. Whether cold or warm, it's still important to consume sufficient fluid because it contributes to the sweat that cools your body through evaporation.

ACCLIMATIZATION

An individual should become acclimatized to the environment to greatly reduce the risk for heat injury. Acclimatization, the body's gradual adaptation to changes in environment, usually takes 10-14 days of heat exposure combined with exercise.

Following acclimatization, individuals will sweat sooner, produce more sweat, and lose fewer electrolytes in their sweat. The net effects of acclimatization are a lower body core temperature, a decreased heart rate response to exercise, and less dehydration and electrolyte depletion.

During the acclimatization period, individuals should lower the intensity level of their exercise bout to decrease the heat load and gradually increase intensity over time as the body adapts.

CLOTHING

Wear clothing that is comfortable for you. Don't force yourself to sweat more than is natural for your body.

Sweat suits are common for athletes trying to make weight for their event, but in no way does a sweat suit help you burn more calories. What you are really losing is water and the minute you start drinking again you will put those pounds back on.

Even worse than over dressing, is wearing plastic or rubberized suits which prevent the evaporation of sweat from the skin and thereby increase the risk of heat injury. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular risk increases when the relative humidity rises above 70 percent, and the humidity in those suits hover around 100 percent.

Losing weight depends on the amount of calories burned compared to the amount of calories consumed. A suit while temporarily reducing the weight showing on the scale will not help you burn more calories which is the key to true weight loss. The same can be said of saunas and steam rooms. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can get lean through passive sweat. If that were true, with our hot, humid days, nobody living in Albany would be overweight!

By following these guidelines you can safely stay in shape over the long summer months while keeping your cool!

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years.