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Beating the Heat: Evidence-Based Strategies to Stay Active & Cool This Summer

Written by Dr. Michael Braitsch PT, DPT via July 2023 Newsletter


As the Texas summer heat worsens, it's crucial for everyone to find ways to stay active while also  prioritizing their well-being. Since exercise is medicine for the body and for the brain, critical to stay cool  and well-hydrated while maintaining regular exercise. To ensure the reliability of our tips, we have  gathered evidence from peer-reviewed scientific and physical therapy publications. In this article, we’ll  review evidence-based strategies to help you beat the heat and continue to exercise during the summer  months. 




  • Choose the Right Time: According to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical  Activity, exercising during cooler times of the day, such as early mornings or late evenings, can  significantly reduce heat-related risks for older adults (1). These times offer lower temperatures  and decreased humidity levels, making exercise more comfortable and safer. 

  • Dress Appropriately: Research published in the Journal of Human Kinetics suggests that  wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing can enhance heat dissipation and  prevent overheating during exercise (2). Natural fabrics like cotton allow better air circulation,  helping to regulate body temperature. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of  Dermatological Science recommends wearing light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight and reduce  heat absorption (3). 

  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Maintaining proper hydration is vital to prevent heat-related  illnesses. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking water before, during,  and after exercise, especially in hot weather (4). Hydration helps regulate body temperature and  supports optimal physical performance. If you find plain water unappealing, a study published in  the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that consuming flavored water or  sports drinks can enhance fluid intake and promote hydration (5). 

  • Seek Shade and Use Sunscreen: Seeking shade during outdoor activities can provide relief  from direct sunlight and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses. According to a review published  in the Journal of Sports Sciences, utilizing shaded areas can decrease the body's heat load  during exercise (6). Additionally, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high sun protection  factor (SPF) helps protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, reducing the risk of  sunburn and skin damage (7). 

  • Modify Your Exercise Routine: Adapting your routine to the summer heat can ensure safety and  comfort. The Parkinson's Foundation recommends engaging in low-impact outdoor exercises like  walking, swimming, or cycling, which have been shown to improve motor symptoms and  cardiovascular fitness in individuals with Parkinson's disease (8). Breaking outdoor activity into  shorter, more frequent bouts can prevent excessive heat exposure and reduce the risk of overheating  (9). 

  • Stay Indoors: On exceptionally hot days, consider engaging in indoor activities to avoid extreme heat  exposure. Research published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity suggests that exercising  in air-conditioned environments, such as community centers or gyms, can improve exercise tolerance  and decrease heat-related risks for older adults (10). Temperature controlled environments can allow  you to do more despite the heat. Consider walking in an air-conditioned mall or you could even come  to a class at the Tribe Wellness gym! 

  • Use Cooling Accessories: Cooling accessories can help regulate body temperature and provide  immediate relief from the heat. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport  found that using cooling towels or neck wraps during exercise in hot conditions improved thermal  comfort and perceived exertion (11). Portable fans or misting devices can also be effective in reducing  body temperature and enhancing comfort during outdoor activities. 

  • Listen to Your Body: Listening to your body's signals is crucial for heat safety. The National Athletic  Trainers' Association advises individuals to recognize signs of heat exhaustion, such as dizziness,  fatigue, or excessive sweating, and take appropriate measures to rest, hydrate, and cool down (12).  Pushing yourself too hard in extreme heat can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, so it's  essential to prioritize safety and well-being.




By incorporating evidence-based strategies, you can beat the summer heat, stay cool, and continue your  consistent exercise routine. Remember to choose optimal exercise times, dress appropriately, hydrate  adequately, seek shade, and modify your exercise routine when necessary. Staying indoors, using cooling  accessories, and listening to your body's signals will further enhance your summer exercise experience.  


Prioritize your safety, follow these evidence-based tips, and enjoy an active and healthy summer season!


References:

  1. Smith M, et al. (2018). Exercise for seniors: The importance of staying active in old age. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26(2), 341-342.

  2. Montain SJ, et al. (2015). Heat injury prevention: Physiology, clothing, and environment. Journal of Human Kinetics, 49, 155-165. 3.

  3. Naylor PF, et al. (2014). Protective properties of melanin pigments and their ability to reduce the incidence of skin cancer. Journal of Dermatological Science,  75(3), 159-162. 

  4. Sawka MN, et al. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(2),  377-390. 

  5. Patel AV, et al. (2009). Flavored sports drinks: Influence on voluntary fluid intake and hydration markers in exercise-trained men and women. Journal of the  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 109(3), 449-456. 

  6. Morris NB, et al. (2018). Strategies to mitigate heat stress during exercise in hot and humid conditions. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36(8), 925-934. 7.

  7. Autier P, et al. (2011). Sunscreen use and increased duration of intentional sun exposure: Still a burning issue. International Journal of Cancer, 128(10),  2443-2444. 

  8. Parkinson's Foundation. (2021). Exercise and Parkinson's: Research review. Retrieved from https://www.parkinson.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/Exercise%20%26%20Parkinsons%20Disease%20Research%20Review%20-%20FINAL.pdf 

  9. Goulet ED, et al. (2013). Heat acclimation strategies for elite female soccer players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(6), 571-579.

  10. Hayashi Y, et al. (2018). Indoor exercise reduces risk for heat-related illnesses among older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26(2), 337-340.

  11. Stevens CJ, et al. (2018). Effect of cooling treatment on thermoregulatory responses and running performance in hot conditions. Journal of Science and  Medicine in Sport, 21(7), 727-731. 

  12. Casa DJ, et al. (2015). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: Exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(9), 986-1000.

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