As physical therapists and therapist assistants, we all advocate for our patients to be active at home both during and after an episode of physical therapy. Whether completing a home exercise program (HEP) designed by your therapists, participating in group classes, maintaining a walking program, or returning to running, weight lifting, or sports activities, our goal is for our patients to get moving and keep moving. However, we also want our patients to be exercising safely, and as our local temperatures continue to blaze it's important to us that our patients take extra precautions - as exercising in the heat can put extra stress on your body and can lead to serious illness. According to the CDC, theses risks are increased during high humidity, as sweat does not evaporate as quickly, and your body is unable to release heat fast enough. People over the age of 65, under the age of 2, or those with chronic or mental illnesses are also at increased risk for heat related illness. Some safety tips to remember so that you can stay active and healthy during these blazing summer days include:
Drink plenty of fluids -
Hydration, hydration, hydration! When exercising or performing other physical actvities (such as yard work) in the heat it is important that you drink more water than usual. DO NOT wait until you are thirsty to drink more. When participating in intense physical activity, consider as sports drink as it can replace valuable electrolytes. Avoid alcholic beverages and sodas in the heat as these can increase fluid loss.
Avoid midday sun -
Temperatures are most high between noon and 3pm, so if your activity must be completed outside, try to schedule it for early morning or in the evening when the sun will be lower and temperatures will be less brutal. Exercise indoors when possible, and especially during the hottest times. Complete your HEP in an air-conditioned environment, and consider moving your walking program to the mall.
Dress appropriately -
Wear light colors and lightweight, loose fitting clothing. These help the body evaporate sweat more easily to cool down. Avoid dark colors as they can absorb heat. Protect yourself with a wide-brim hat whenever possible. WEAR SUNSCREEN - sunburns decrease your body's ability to cool itself, and cause skin cancer.
Pace yourself -
Know your fitness level, and give your body time to adjust to the increased temperatures. If you are new to exercise, be extra cautious as your body may have a lower tolerance to heat. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take 1- 2 weeks for the body to adapt to being physically active in the heat. So, even if you are in good shape and frequently active outdoors, take it easy! Reduce exercise intensity and take frequent breaks, start out slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your activities as your body adapts.
Pay attention! -
Pay attention to the temperature and the weather report. Most weather reports will provide a warning system or "flags" when temperatures are at dangerous levels, or when the humidity compounds the effects of the heat. Pay attention to your body - KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS! Warning signs of heat related illness include: Muscle cramps, nausea/vomiting, weakness, fatigue, headache, excessvie sweating, dizziness/lightheadedness, confusion, irritability, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and visual problems. For more specific signs and symptoms - and how to respond if you or a loved one are experiencing any signs of heat related illness, please visit the cdc website https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html.
By, Kelly Wright-Fraser, PTA