How do you avoid the adverse effects of extreme heat while staying fit? Hydration, time of day and clothing have a lot to do with it.

Whether you are taking a hike, running or playing basketball you have to adjust your behavior with the temperature.

So how does the heat affect us?

When we workout in hot weather, we are putting extra stress on ourselves. If we don’t take care at that time we risk illness – sometimes serious illness. It is a combination of the heat, exercise and the humidity that will increase our body temperature.

To help you cool down, your body will circulate more blood to reach your skin. The leaves less blood for other things – like our muscles. That results in an increased heart rate as our bodies work to circulate that blood to our skin. When the humidity is also high it means sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly. In Colorado that is less of a problem than in other locations, but it is still a contributing factor in elevating our body temperature into dangerous levels.

Normally our skin, blood vessels and sweat levels will adjust to the heat – but just like anything when the conditions continue for too long our cooling mechanisms may fail. This is where our fluid intake and moisture wicking clothing can really help us avoid heat illness – like heat cramps.

Heat cramps are also known as exercise-associated muscle cramps. These painful muscle contractions can occur during exercise. Muscles will become hard and feel firm to the touch. The muscle will spasm and it causes pain. Even if our body temperature returns to normal, heat syncope – feeling light-headed – can affect us. This syndrome can cause us to faint often – and fainting can cause even more problems.

Additionally we may develop headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and irritability. When our body temperatures continue to rise we enter into heat exhaustion territory which further can lead to heatstroke.

Web MD published a list  of the warning signs to pay attention to in avoiding heatstroke. These include:

Muscle cramps
Nausea or vomiting
Excessive sweating
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Low blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Visual problems

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms you must stop your exercise and focus on cooling your body and hydrating quickly. Get out of the heat and make sure you are not alone should you experience further injury.

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