Taking your workout outside is a fun, free way to make the most of the sweet summer weather, but as the temperatures start to rise, so can your discomfort factor, not to mention your risk of dehydration or even heat stroke. Fortunately, there are ways to keep cool while you exercise that don’t involve staying indoors and cranking the AC. Here's the lowdown from fitness experts on how to actually enjoy a sweat session in the summer heat.
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Don’t wipe that sweat away
While your natural reaction may be to towel off, Jessica Matthews, the senior advisor for health and fitness education at the American Council on Exercise, told Health that letting perspiration stay on your skin will actually help you feel cooler. “It’s not just the act of sweating that keeps your body temperature regulated, but how that sweat is evaporated by the body,” she says. “Letting yourself sweat and letting it pool on your skin allows the evaporation process to happen, and that’s what keeps you cool.” Matthews also suggests using a spray bottle to mimic this feeling at the start of your workout. “Just a little mist beforehand gives you that feeling of a light sweat and that process of evaporation already happening, so that’s a great thing to do before you head out.”
Consider the heat index
The temperature reading outside is not the end-all, be-all when it comes to staying cool outdoors. Matthews recommends looking up your local humidity and temperature, then using a heat index chart, which measures the "apparent temperature" to gauge how hot it feels. Similar to how the wind chill affects how cold the temperature actually feels, the humidity can affect how hot a given temperature feels.
For days that the heat and humidity levels are high, Brendon McDermott, PhD, assistant professor in the graduate athletic training program at the University of Arkansas, recommends doing a lighter-than-normal workout if you're going out between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the heat is more intense. “If you’re a runner that runs a six-minute mile, then taking it easy for you might be to jog rather than run,” he says. “Or if you’re normally a jogger and go pretty slow, perhaps you should switch out walking for jogging that day or go for a lighter bike ride."
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Wear breathable material
According to McDermott, lighter-colored clothing won't make you feel any cooler in the heat than darker clothing. Instead, he recommends focusing on donning the right material. “If you put something on that does not allow you to sweat that is impairing your ability to get rid of the heat,” he says.
Cotton's a prime offender, since it can absorb moisture and get heavy during your workout, Matthews adds. Instead, she suggests looking for gear made out of a polysynthetic blend, which is often found in "dry-fit" workout gear.
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You know drinking water is key when you exercise, but what's the right amount when you're sweating bullets? Matthews recommends 7-10 ounces of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise. But there's no need to obsess so much that you're sipping with every step. Says McDermott: “For safety purposes, drinking when you feel thirsty is fine.”
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