Winter, and all the complications and disturbances that come with it, may feel like a distant memory now as we hit the hottest time of year. But getting caught up in the summer sun, we may tend to forget that there are also some dangers that come with the warm weather, too. High up on that list is dehydration, a common problem in summer.
Water accounts for approximately 60% of our body weight, and every cell, tissue and organ relies on it in order to function properly. Water is essential many important biological tasks, some of which include maintaining temperature, removing wastes and lubricating joints. Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to muscles, and in turn, helps muscles work more efficiently.
Of the large amount of water in the body, only about 10% of it is in the bloodstream, and much of this water can be lost through sweating, our body’s natural cooling mechanism. Exercising in any environment causes the body to sweat, and in warmer temperatures, more sweat is produced. Performing intense exercise in hot and humid conditions can lead to sweating up to three liters, which is more than half the water in our bloodstream.
Sweat evaporates quickly in dry weather, so only a small amount of sweat is needed to lower the body’s temperature, but in humid conditions, it takes much longer to evaporate. This causes you to sweat more, and if you don’t replenish the amount of water your body loses, it leads to dehydration. The main symptoms of dehydration are little or no urine (or urine that’s darker in color than usual), dry mouth, intense thirst, confusion, nausea, sleepiness/fatigue, headaches and dizziness/lightheadedness.
The best way to prevent dehydration when exercising is by not waiting until you’re thirsty or notice symptoms to start drinking water. On hot days—especially if you’re exercising—it’s imperative that you drink plenty of water at all times. Below are some additional tips to help you stay hydrated while exercising in the summer sun:
- Get in the habit of drinking lots of water throughout the day
- Drink cool rather than very cold water, which your body will absorb better
- Water is the best option, but if you’re exercising at a high intensity for longer than one hour, a sports drink with electrolytes may also be necessary
- The exact amount you need to drink depends on your body weight, body temperature, type of exercise and weather conditions, but as a general guideline, drink several glasses of water spaced throughout the day; you are usually well-hydrated if your urine is very light yellow or clear
- Wear loose-fitting clothing that will allow air to circulate
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, as it’s a diuretic and will make you lose more fluids
- Try to exercise in the shade and avoid direct exposure to the sun if possible
Summer is a great time to get outdoors and savor the sun with your favorite exercise, but it also requires a bit of caution while doing so. Keep these pointers in mind throughout the summer and avoid any heat-related complications like dehydration. For any pain you may be experiencing, come into Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates in Kings Mountain and Shelby, NC for an evaluation. Call 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.