Are midlife exercisers safe to exercise in the heat? Is it enough to simply stay hydrated? What are the dangers (and solutions) for active boomers who face high temperatures and humidity? Are you thinking yet of the Poindexter song, “Hot, Hot, Hot?”
Summer is here. We can all go outside and run (or walk, in our case). In the heat. And possibly where the humidity is high enough to make your body look like it’s crying. But wait, we’re not saying avoid outdoor exercise. Say nay to that. We want to encourage you to go outside and be active. Of course we always support going inside to group fitness classes, especially when the room has AC! But stay hydrated.Are midlife exercisers safe to exercise in the heat? Click To Tweet
Often we’ll put sunblock on, then a hat and head outside (Head. Hat. Get it?), but leave behind a water bottle because we won’t be gone long, or it’s a hassle to carry, or or or. Be well-prepared especially if you aren’t well-hydrated. We won’t lecture you (but we’d like to) if you don’t take along your water bottle, but we WILL share some definitions and information. Then you can know when you’re in harm’s way or safe to beat the heat.
Euhydration – normal hydration. Your body is taking in the same amount of fluid as it’s expending. In a hot environment, that’s about 3500 milliliters (compared to 2500 on a normal day).
Hypohydration – a reduction of body water as the body progresses from a euhydrated to a dehydrated state.
Dehydration – when water losses due to sweat are not offset by water intake. Read Water: Chilled, Stirred or Straight from the Pool Post-Exercise? if you wonder whether to drink cold or tepid water:
Hyponatremia – abnormally low plasma sodium concentrations. When more fluids are consumed than are lost, excess water accumulates relative to sodium. Danger, danger.When exercising in heat, is it better to drink a lot at once, or go w/ lots of sips spread over… Click To Tweet
Exertional Heat Exhaustion – the body’s heat production exceeds its ability to dissipate heat, and core temperature rises to >104°. Symptoms can include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, and headache.
Exertional Heatstroke – more severe than heat exhaustion. In addition to the above symptoms, heatstroke sufferers can also experience a gradual impairment of consciousness, difficulty concentrating, sweat-soaked, pale skin (these symptoms are different from classic heatstroke), and even death.
* Rather than taking sips of water over the course of your outdoor exercise, drink a larger volume all at once. You’ll stay in euhydration longer.
* If you exercise longer than 90 minutes, rehydrate with water that has electrolytes added (primarily sodium and potassium, though some sodium is reabsorbed by the sweat glands – the body sure is amazing, eh)?
* Drink water before, during AND after exercise – yes, all three.
As to whether it’s better to drink cold or room temperature water, the research clearly indicates that … it doesn’t really matter. The temperature that’s most effective is … the one that will induce you to drink more water.
If you find water boring, that’s no excuse to go buy sugar-laden drinks or skip the water bottle. Simple throw in a sprig of mint or rosemary, or a wedge or orange, lemon or lime, and off you go. Up hill. Down dale.
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by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Dear Amy: First of all, my condolences. In my vast experience of running races (none), I believe that’s 13 miles. My first reaction is to advise you to drive–you’ll definitely meet the 14 min/mile rule. But you seem intent on actually running. Sigh. You know that cars have been invented, right?
During your race, if you find energy gels to be more convenient or mentally a “boost,” choose that. Researchers tend to differ, but it does seem that most of them held hands, sang “Kumbaya” and decided to agree that you are just as well off with a less expensive alternative. Say, you can even put some grape jelly into a baggie, then cut a hole and squeeze that into your mouth during the race. Urgle – I feel saccharine-sweet just thinking of that! Heck, the Stone Research Foundation even recommends a Pop-Tart over an energy bar!
Kymberly: As to the decision about Gatorade or water, we will say that the most important aspect is taking in carbohydrates and electrolytes when engaging in a true endurance activity. So a sports drink is probably better than water since you’ll be running for 183 minutes, which is essentially two soccer matches. Now we’re talking!
K: We asked a few of our experienced running friends to comment on the hydration belt issue. They had some great comments:
Running Readers: is it all about distress or de-stress when entered in a half marathon?
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