Finally, we have some better weather, it feels like we’ve waited a long time for some sun and hotter temperatures. We love hearing the stories of vacations, trips to cabins and lakes, gardening, barbeques, and playgrounds with grandchildren. But some of us don’t adapt well to these higher temps.
A new study published in the PLOS Journal of Medicine (Public Library of Science) found that when we get too hot (heat stress), we feel exhausted and this can jumble our thoughts and make it feel like active tasks are more difficult to complete. And not only do we feel mentally sluggish but we experience some interesting, and somewhat scary physical responses to being active in the summer heat.
Due to our fixed blood volume, a competition develops between working skeletal muscles and our skin. Our muscles require oxygen (transported by the blood) to sustain physical activity and our skin requires blood flow to dissipate heat (through vasodilation of the blood vessels) and keep us cool. This means that exercising in warmer temperatures adds more stress on our cardiovascular system by increasing our heart and respiration rates. We are going to feel more tired, more quickly.
We also have an increased ‘thermal intolerance’ as we age. There is a higher physiological cost to sweating more to keep us cool. Older adults can feel heat stressed as the sweating mechanisms and skin blood flow are less efficient, leading to an increase to the core body temperature, which could result in illness or dangerous conditions.
So here are some tips to keep you enjoying your physical activity this summer:
Drink water, drink water, and drink more water. Water will help maintain blood pressure, which helps also with sufficient cardiovascular function.
Decrease your intensity – go slower and lower your effort to a more comfortable pace.
Be prepared to take off clothing layers and look for fabrics that will ‘breath’ (like technical garments that will wick the sweat from your body).
Watch for signs of dizziness and dehydration. Take breaks when you need to.
Wear a hat & sunglasses and look for shade as much as possible.
Don’t forget your skin – use sunscreen to avoid a sunburn.
Keep cool and carry on with your summer!