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Paige Waehner

Should You Exercise in the Heat?

By July 5, 2012

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With the terrible storms and high heat hitting much of the country and many of us (including here in Chicagoland) without electricity, the question of whether one should exercise probably isn't high on our question list right now.

However, even with the disasters going on, I've seen plenty of people out and about, running and walking and, no doubt, sweating their you-know-whats off. Exercising when it's very hot outside can be done, but it can be at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, dangerous without the proper precautions. Minor issues like dehydration, sunburn, heat rash and/or a really crappy workout can turn into major problems like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

The problem is, we often don't know we're overdoing it until it's too late. If you exercise all the time, you may not think twice about heading outside for your usual workout, not realizing that your body, no matter how fit it is, needs time to adapt to hot weather exercise. A few tips:

  • Watch your heart rate: High temperatures and humidity can send your heart rate soaring. Many of us try to run, walk or cycle at the same pace we normally do, sometimes pushing ourselves even when we're clearly struggling. Wear a heart rate monitor and check your heart rate regularly. If it's very high, you know to back off, cut your workout short or move it indoors.
  • The sweat factor: If you stop sweating, that's a major warning sign that your body can't regulate your temperature and you should stop your workout and head indoors.
  • Look for signs of heat exhaustion: Besides the sweat factor, stop your workout and get indoors if you feel nausea, fatigue, dizziness or so hot that your head might catch on fire. Treating yourself right away (with fluids, a cold shower, an air conditioned room, etc.) can help you avoid heat stroke, which is much more serious and usually requires emergency treatment.

Find more tips for exercising in the heat and be sure to leave a comment about your experiences. Have you ever overdone it in the heat? What did you do about it and how do you take precautions now? Leave a comment and tell us about exercising in the heat.

June 9, 2011 at 8:25 am
(1) beginners workout says:

My next investment will be a heart rate monitor. Not only will I feel better about dehydration, I think it will help with intervals.

June 9, 2011 at 3:37 pm
(2) Gstpulldn says:

And the follow-up question: should you exercise in the cold? If people drop dead shoveling snow every winter due to the cold, is it risky to exercise in cold weather or at an ice rink?

June 10, 2011 at 6:16 am
(3) Brendan Delaney says:

One other thing to consider is any medications you are taking. Some make it EASIER to suffer the effects of the heat, as I found out after having heat stroke, due to working outside in the Summer, and a medication I had been taking for a while. Read the warnings!

June 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm
(4) bev says:

Not me! I envy those who can. I’ve been told nothing beats a heat assisted sweat. This guy I know runs midday in the Texas heat and he is in great shape. He is all muscle, very lean and not a youngster. He’s my eye candy for the day.

June 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm
(5) Ronit says:

The New York Times had an article a few years ago that stated that exercising in the cold was actually a lot safer than working out in the heat.

“it turns out that even though cold can be frightening, more people are injured exercising in the heat than exercising in the cold. ”


July 9, 2011 at 10:44 am
(6) Hiit says:

For a short time it s ok but you have to hava a water near by

July 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm
(7) lewis says:

so is it wise to walk in the heat?

July 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm
(8) Russ says:


July 28, 2011 at 12:44 am
(9) jabeydeera says:

I’m living in a tropical country & it’s always warm. So when I’m doing Physical excises indoor, I project a table fan on me & able to do more work-outs without getting tired. If you have a air-conditioner it’s more comfortable than fans.Last 25 years I’m using this method.

July 29, 2011 at 6:04 am
(10) Valon says:

Yes you can di it, but you have to do it shortly and not with high speed of runig/walking, and you should have water with you, in other case its not prfered to do.

July 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm
(11) San Jose Bill says:

I love a run on a hot day. Maybe the best run I’ve ever had was in 95 degree heat. When it’s not hot, I layer up in sweats because I want to sweat (get rid of salt for BP reasons). I usually grade my workouts by how sweaty I am when finished.

August 9, 2011 at 6:34 am
(12) Jonathon Dunrobin the elliptical fitness machine guy says:

One school of thought suggests that to exercise in the heat reduces the amount of time that you need to exercise because you are intensifying the physiological stress on the body as well as the physical – of course both are linked.

The one danger of this is “heat stroke” where because you have exercised and got hot, and the atmosphere is hot as well, your bodly has a problem removing heat from “itself” and so becomes overheated – I have had heat stroke and it is not pleasant. Of course another problem can be dehydration!

But hey go out and get the best Elliptical for home use turn on the air con. and exercise in comfort!

July 6, 2012 at 10:51 am
(13) Bill says:

I had to get a lot of lawn mowing and garden work done this week in the heat. I found that a long sleeve sweaty tee shirt and a large wet bandana around my head, along with frequent water breaks, made it quite manageable. I am 70.

July 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm
(14) David says:

I just rode my bike for four hours in the heat. I took more water than usual, and I stopped midway and refilled my bottles with ice & water. No problems.

July 10, 2012 at 1:17 am
(15) M says:

And what, sir, might have been that temperature?

Hot is relative… By the standards of some, mighta been 100 F, by those of others, 68F…

July 10, 2012 at 6:05 am
(16) Sadie says:

Regarding the snow shoveling comment: It is the sudden heavy prolonged exertion by someone who is unfit and possibly unwell (sometimes unknown to themselves) that is the issue here, the cold itself is a lesser factor.

July 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm
(17) Lori says:

I have suffered from heat exhaustion in the past, so I am vigilant about keeping well hydrated and cooling off after working out. During this current heat wave, I have been getting up to run at 4:00am. This means that it has been between 75 and 80 outside. Those temps are still uncomfortable to run in, but much better than the blinding sun at 90 degrees! I also cool off with a cool shower and a big glass of water right after my workout.

July 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(18) Big Vanilla Athletic Club says:

Don’t forget to drinks lots of water if you’re exercising outside! Using an insulated water bottle can help to keep your drink cold even when it’s hot outside.

July 13, 2012 at 4:50 am
(19) alana says:

Excellent article! Though I don’t exercise in the heat as such (I’m in England, have you SEEN our weather?!) I DO exercise in a sweat suit, so that makes it FEEL alot hotter than it is! So many people think that they dont need to take water with them out on a run, but it really is essential! Keep hydrated!

July 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm
(20) Maternity Clothes Brisbane says:

This is the second time I’ve been to your website. Thnx for posting more details.

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