Staying Safe and Fit During Summer Weather
Beautiful weather, vacation time and retirement bring thoughts of rest and relaxation. Imagine yourself basking on a sandy beach or swinging in a hammock by a lake. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
But it’s important to remember that a sedentary lifestyle invites numerous health problems including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bone and muscle weakness, and metabolic disturbances. Inactivity can also impair balance and affect mental health and mood. Good health requires a balance between relaxation and regular physical activity.
How do people know if they are really fit? One way would be to visit the President’s Fitness Program web site at (https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/adult.shtml). These guidelines were originally established in 1956 by President Eisenhower, and they now have challenges for adults as well as for children. There is an online evaluation addressing four vital areas:
- Aerobic fitness
- Muscular strength and endurance
- Body composition
You can use the results to help shape a sensible fitness program for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a good idea to review the plan with your health care professional before engaging in any new exercise program.
Whether you choose to engage in moderate exercises such as walking and swimming, or more strenuous activities like playing a game of tennis or beach volleyball, being active outdoors in hot weather puts extra stress on your body and can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses.
When you exercise in hot weather, your core body temperature rises, triggering dilation of the blood vessels in the skin; your body radiates more heat, you sweat, and your temperature goes down. But this takes blood from your muscles and increases your heart rate. High humidity inhibits evaporation of perspiration and body temperature goes even higher. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff at (www.mayoclinic.org), heat-related illnesses occur when
natural cooling systems fail:
- when you are exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long
- if you sweat heavily
- when you don’t drink enough fluids
Common heat-related illnesses include heat cramps (painful muscle contractions), heat syncope (lightheadedness or fainting) and heat exhaustion (body temperature as high as 104° [40 C], headache, queasy stomach, weakness, cold clammy skin). If left untreated, this can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life threatening emergency condition that can develop when your body temperature rises above 104° (40 C). Other symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and visual disturbances. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop exercising immediately and drink fluids. Find a shady spot or wet yourself down in a cool shower or with a hose. If the symptoms persist or get worse, emergency medical attention is warranted. Remember, heat-related illnesses can be prevented by planning ahead and following these simple suggestions:
- Check the weather forecast for heat-index warnings.
- Avoid strenuous activities between noon and 3 PM, when the sun is strongest.
- Dress for the heat with light-weight, light-colored breathable fabrics. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Use sunscreen and re-apply every two hours.
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
Fitness outside has a number of health benefits, and it is fun! Invite a friend for a walk, explore new bike paths or a new outdoor sport or hobby that keeps you moving. Remember to always consult with your family physician before changing your physical activity, for advice and health guidance.