Don’t Feel the Burn

While the summer heat won’t slow anytime soon, a Kennesaw State University professor warns that maybe your outdoor exercise regimen should.

“Generally, all activity in heat and humidity becomes more taxing on the body,” said Brian Kliszczewicz, an associate professor of exercise science in Kennesaw State’s WellStar College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management. “Heart rate automatically goes up. Blood pressure will start to drift up. So as we increase our strain, a strenuous workout is more strenuous than it should be.”

He suggests that you may need to postpone your daily regime until early evening, or get up before dawn, to keep your healthy habit from becoming a dangerous one.

Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related danger in the United States, with an average of 130 a year, according to a U.S. National Weather Service report over a 30-year period. People exercising and athletes in training are particularly susceptible as heat stroke death from exercise is one of the three leading causes of sudden death in athletes.

Exercising in the heat has risks, and Kliszczewicz warns exercise newbies and avid trainers alike:

“You run the risk of overheating and lose the ability to thermo regulate as well as you normally would. That’s when you talk about heat exhaustion, heat stroke — in extreme circumstances.”

Brian Kliszczewicz, assistant professor of exercise science at Kennesaw State University

To help beat the heat, Kliszczewicz offers these three suggestions:

  • Hydrate: “Drink lots of fluid to replace fluids you are going to lose.”
  • Ease into it: “You don’t go from an extreme cool environment to an extremely hot one and start exercising. If you’re coming from work, try driving with the windows down (before getting home for exercise). Try to adjust a little bit to the temperature. If you’re not consistently outside for several weeks, it takes about 7-14 days to acclimate to real heat and humidity. So if you’re always in the air conditioner and never outside in a hot environment, you’re not going to be acclimated and it’s not recommended you do heavy exercise or heavy activity in the heat.”
  • Avoid peak hours: “Wait until 4:30 p.m., or for the sun to go down a little bit. Avoid peak hours between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. I would avoid that type of heat and humidity. If a mile run is your workout, go later, around 6 p.m. when you don’t have the sun beating down on you.”

“I’m someone who’s been doing this (working out in heat) for years, and I’m fairly fit,” Kliszczewicz said. “It still gets me when I start out. Point being, it will put you down pretty quick. You have to slowly introduce yourself to it. Low-intensity exercise with appropriate sunscreen and clothing and you should be fine.”