June's Wellness Topic: Skin and Summer Health
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Dr. Kerry Stewart
Skin and Summer Health

Safe Summer Fun
by Kerry Stewart

Keeping up with a regular exercise routine is a year-round activity. I recently wrote about the challenges of the calendar, which can mean that either the weather or the holidays can make sticking to your routine more difficult.

And in fact, the season that poses one of the biggest weather challenges is the good old summer time.

If you exercise indoors, either at home or at a gym, it is usually no problem. For those who exercise outdoors, however, the two weather elements that pose the biggest challenges are the heat and thunderstorms. But with carefully planning and adjustments in your schedule, there is little reason to miss out on the benefits of staying active.

In most parts of the country, summers can be very hot, even dangerously so. If you don't pay attention to the temperature and humidity, you run the risk of heat stress or heat stroke. To keep safe, there are several things you can do.

  • First, try to exercise as early in the day as possible, before the temperatures rise to the upper 80s and higher.
  • Or, wait until one or two hours before sunset, when the temperatures start to cool down.
  • If you decide to exercise when it is dark, make sure that you wear a bright, reflective vest so that motorists can see you easily.
  • Carry a flashlight so that you can see any obstacles on the sidewalks or the side of the road.

Next, dress the part. While you can always put on more layers in the winter to stay warm, summertime requires that you wear a minimal amount of clothing so that the sweat you produce can evaporate into the air and keep you cool. Also:

  • Make sure you wear breathable and lightweight clothing.
  • Try different fabrics to see what works best for you.
  • Note that if droplets of sweat are dripping off of you, you aren't getting the benefits of evaporation to keep you cool
  • Because you are likely to be sweating, it is important to stay hydrated. Unless you are exercising for hours at a time, your best option is to drink plain water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Drink enough water so you are not thirsty, but don't drink too much since that can be harmful.
  • Most people don't need sport drinks that contain salt and sugars — those ingredients only add calories and you might end up drinking more calories than you burn, which doesn't help with weight management.
  • Last, don't forget to put on the sunblock and to wear a hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off your face.

Regarding rain, I'm sure you know that a light shower or drizzle can be very refreshing while exercising. However, if there's a threat of a thunderstorm, stay inside. If you're ever caught in a storm, get inside quickly — never seek shelter under a tree, which could attract lightning. Besides lightning, thunderstorms can be very dangerous because of falling tree limbs, wind-driven debris, and flashfloods. Fortunately, such storms don't last very long, so you may still be able to get a workout later in the day. If not, for safety sake, you'll just have to wait until the next day.

Summer workouts can be lots of fun and will help you keep fit all year round. Just be sure to pay attention to the simple things you need to do to stay safe.

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