Is it safe to exercise outside during a heat wave?

by | Jul 1, 2023 | Health and Wellness

Whether you love it or hate it, exercise is an important part of everyday life for many of us. But when the thermometer shows extremely hot temperatures, is it still a good idea to get active outside?

The short answer is yes, as long as you take some important precautions.

Know the health risks
Extreme heat is most dangerous for people with breathing difficulties like asthma, or existing health conditions. It’s also riskier for older adults and young children.

However, even if you’re fit and healthy, exercising outdoors and indoors in very hot weather can be dangerous. Hot temperatures make it more difficult for our bodies to sweat and cool off. Physical activity can raise your body temperature faster, leading to serious problems when the heat makes it hard to cool down.

Here are some steps to take to make your exercise safer during a heat wave.

  • Watch the weather: Follow forecasts and weather alerts so you know when heat is on its way. If you work out on a team or with a trainer, ask how they plan to adjust the workouts during a heat wave.
  • Adjust your plans: Consider rescheduling your activities to a cooler time of day or moving them to a shady or air-conditioned space.
  • Breathe easy: Check out the Air Quality Health Index, a daily air-quality report for your area, if it’s available. Air pollution tends to be worse during high heat.
  • Be realistic: Don’t expect your usual physical performance during a heat wave. Your body is already working extra hard to regulate your temperature. It’s not the time to push yourself.
  • Drink up: Remember that you’ll need extra water breaks during hot weather.
  • Spot trouble: Watch for symptoms of heat illness, which include feeling unwell, fainting, nausea, headache and thirst. If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and sip on water.
  • Recover: After a hot workout, make sure you rest in a cooler, tree-shaded area. If indoors, turn on air conditioning if available or relocate to a cooler area of the building like a basement, or visit an air-conditioned space.

Find more information at canada.ca/health

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