Beat the Heat

Photo by Laura DeAngelis

Toward the end of this wonderful weekend, I headed to our rooftop deck to enjoy my weekly “guilty pleasure” of reading the latest People magazine cover to cover.  Despite my SPF 30 sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses and big water bottle, I only lasted an hour. The heat was just too much, and I was just lying around reading. Which made me realize this is the perfect time for a refresher course on heat-related emergencies.

With a little help from the textbooks I used to study for my AFAA and NASM exams (Fitness: Theory & Practice, Fifth Edition and NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Third Edition), here’s what you need to know if you or someone you’re working out with experiences any of the following:

Heat cramps: These are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal region, that could be a signal that a more serious emergency is imminent.

What to do: If you experience heat cramps, stop exercising, find some shade or move indoors where it’s cool and drink cool water.

Heat exhaustion: This is a step up in severity from heat cramps, and can occur when you’ve been exercising strenuously for a long period of time in extreme heat or humidity. Signs and symptoms:

  • Moist, pale, or cool skin
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Nausea
  • Weak pulse

What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen all tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels, but not to the point of shivering and drink cool water.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe heat emergency and usually happens when signs of heat exhaustion go unchecked.  In this situation, dangerously high internal body temperatures will cause your body’s vital systems to fail.  Signs and symptoms:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Little or no perspiration
  • Weakness
  • Rapid pulse

What to do: As with heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels. If you can find them, you can also put ice packs under the armpits and groin area.

A few preventive steps to remember:

  • Try to exercise outdoors before 9 am and after 6 pm.
  • Stay hydrated! Basic guidelines call for you to drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise, but you can drink an additional eight to 16 oz  if you’re exercising in warmer weather.
  • If you are being treated for cardiovascular or circulatory problems and are any medications, always check with your doctor before adding any outdoor activity to your routine.

I leave you with these two final and important tips:

  • Do not hesitate to call 911 in an emergency.
  • Listen to your body. It knows when something’s wrong.

While it’s the perfect time to get outside and get moving, use some extra care so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

About LauraLovesFitness

After spending more than 10 years in the communications industry, this lifetime fitness lover and newly certified fitness professional wants to share my passion for health and well-being with others.

Posted on July 18, 2011, in Fitness, Health and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Timely article considering the recent heat wave hitting the nation. I hope readers take heed and apply these critical tips!

    • Thank you, Amy! It is very important to take extra care during these dog days of summer. Our bodies are working hard enough in the heat and humidity, so anything we can do to make sure we don’t push it toohard is crucial.

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