June 30, 2014 — Coral Gables, Fla. — As we head into the heart of summer, Dominique Ennis, assistant director of fitness and personal training at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, answered some questions on how to stay fit and stay safe this summer.
Q: How can I prepare to exercise in the summer months?
Ease in to summer. Allow your body to adapt to the heat through repeated, gradual daily activity. If you haven't been active in a while, start slowly and build up. Do what you can; some physical activity is better than none. After about two weeks of minimal exercise, your body will start to adjust itself and its systems. As always, consult your physician before starting a new activity program.
Q: I’m nervous about pushing myself too hard in the heat. Can I just walk instead of run?
Moving is better than not moving at all. The U.S. Surgeon General’s “Everybody Walk!” initiative encourages Americans to add walking to their daily routine. An inexpensive pedometer is a great way to track how much you walk every day – the Surgeon General recommends 10,000 steps. Although you’ll burn less calories and your heart rate won’t rise as much as it would if running, walking is a great way to stay fit and has many health benefits. It can reduce your blood pressure over time, maintains bone density and even enhances your mental wellness.
Q: Can I still exercise outside or should I switch to an indoor fitness center?
Exercise smarter, not harder to stay cool during the summer. Work out during the cooler parts of the day, preferably when the sun's radiation is minimal — early in the morning or early in the evening is best. Decrease exercise intensity and duration at high temperatures or high humidity. But now might also be a good time to exercise indoors like at shopping malls. The Herbert Wellness Center offers summer memberships to those who are eligible and looking to take a break from the heat.
Q: What are some ways to stay cool while exercising outside?
The most important thing to remember when exercising outside is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You need to maintain a salt-water balance by drinking plenty of fluids - preferably water. Make sure to drink before, during and after physical activity.
Also, wear minimal amounts of clothing to facilitate cooling by evaporation. Sweating doesn’t cool you down, the evaporation of sweat does! Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton.
Q: What are some safety concerns I should be careful of when exercising outside?
The most common health hazards during the summer months are dehydration and sunburns. Make sure to drink more water than you normally do and apply a sweat-proof sunscreen before and during your exercises. If you can, exercise with a friend or family member. It’s safer to have someone with you just in case something happens.
Q: How can I stay hydrated while exercising?
Drink plenty of water – probably more than you’re used to. And remember, most people don’t need and shouldn’t drink a sports drink. It’s too high in sugar for the little bit of electrolytes you gain. If you want some flavor in your water without all the added sugar, add some fresh fruit or only four ounces of a sports drink into a bottle of water.
Q: Are there any other tips you can provide?
Especially in the summer, look for ways to increase your heart rate while inside. As it gets hotter outside, we are more likely to stay indoors at home or in the office. So take advantage of being inside when you can. Walk around the office during lunch or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Dominique Ennis, assistant director of fitness and personal training at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, is a certified health and fitness specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine with degrees in exercise science and sports management from Old Dominion University.
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