With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, the dog days of summer are quickly approaching. And with many of us trapped inside over the last few months, we’re even more eager to get outside to take a walk, go for a run, or ride a bike.

A man and a woman walk on the beach, away from the camera, with two dogs.

But with the Farmer’s Almanac predicting it’s “likely to be a scorcher” this year, there are some precautions we all should take before exercising outside.

Stay hydrated

It’s common knowledge that it’s always important to hydrate before and after working out, but it’s doubly important to stay hydrated when it’s hot outside. The experts at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in Southern California, have some detailed recommendations on hydration when exercising in the heat:

  • Drink about 20-24 oz. of water about 2-3 hours before exercise, then another 7-10 oz. about 10 to 20 minutes before exercise.
  • Drink 7 to 10 oz. of water every 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Drink beyond your thirst. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Collection of blue glasses, all turned with the open side down.

They also note that water is fine for hydration for shorter workouts, but if you’re going for a long run or hike (for 90 minutes or more), they suggest drinking something with electrolytes like potassium or sodium. These sports drinks help to replenish the minerals lost when sweating heavily due to exertion and heat.

Prepare your body for the weather

There are a few ways to make sure that you’re preparing your body for the heat. Coury and Buehler reminds outdoor athletes to dress appropriately. Loose-fitting clothing that’s lightweight and lightly colored will be much more comfortable than anything dark, heavy and tight.

They also suggest cooling your body off before you go outside to exercise, which will allow you to work out longer before you reach your maximum heat. This can be by wrapping your body with cold, wet towels or simply rubbing cold water bottles across your armpits, neck and groin. It’s also been shown that drinking a slushie or slurry — an icy, syrupy drink — before your workout helps to cool you off from the inside. And if you really mean business, an ice bath will definitely reduce your core temperature.

Photograph of a blue slushie in a clear plastic cup.

The experts at Foothills Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in Phoenix, also point out how important it is to protect your skin. They remind athletes to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days, to protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which can both cause skin cancer. Don’t forget the skin on your neck and ears if you’re wearing a hat, and wear sunglasses that have side coverage to avoid sun coming in behind your lenses.

Work out at the proper time of day

While the peak temperature times may vary from region to region throughout the early and late afternoon, in most places it’s best to exercise early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the hottest temperatures. The team at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy notes that if you haven’t exercised outside in a while, particularly in warm climates, you want to gradually acclimatize your body to the temperatures. In other words, don’t go for a 10-mile run on your first outing.

They suggest starting with 15-20 minutes of outside activity, and then adding 5-10 minutes a day, so that your body gets used to the heat. The CDC also points out that you should ease into workouts when it’s hot, starting slow and working toward more intense activity.

Dark-haired woman running on the beach.

Listen to your body

The physical therapists at Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy, another Physiquality member in the Phoenix area, remind you to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Dizziness, muscle cramps, and shallow breathing are signs of heat exhaustion and your body’s way of telling you to stop exercising. The CDC has a great printable guide to the various symptoms of heat-related illness and what to do for these various symptoms. Their recommendations range from going inside, hydrating and cooling off if you are sweating excessively or experiencing muscle spasms, to calling 911 if you have a fever of 103 or you lose consciousness. These are good rules to follow in order to be safe when you’re exercising on hot days.

Use our locator below to find a Physiquality member near you for guidance on how to stay healthy during a pandemic. Many members offer telehealth services and other options if you’re sheltering at home.

Thank you to our contributors:

Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member with six locations throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, including The Kids Place, a clinic focused on pediatric PT. Founded by Ryann and Teri Roberts in 2007, AZOPT believes everyone should have the opportunity to Feel Better, Function Better, and Live Better.

Physiquality member Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy has seven locations in Orange County, California. Founded by Brandon Buehler and Rich Coury in 2004, they work to help every patient live a better, healthier life, relieving pain and improving function through treatment.

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member with several clinic locations in Arizona. Providers of physical therapy for more than 20 years, their PTs and PTAs deliver hands-on physical therapy with integrity and accountability, ensuring the best possible patient results.

Steinberg, Michael. Summer weather forecast 2020: A scorching summer ahead. Farmer’s Almanac, May 29, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Four signs you should STOP working out. Physiquality, January 16, 2019.

Steinhilber, Brianna. Is Gatorade good for you? This is when you should drink it, according to a nutritionist. NBC News, August 11, 2018.

Summer heat and exercise safety. Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy, June 5, 2018.

Can you handle the heat? Exercise tips for warm temperatures. Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy, March 15, 2016.

How to keep your skin safe in the Arizona sun. Foothills Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy.

Kolata, Gina. To beat the heat, drink a slushie first. New York Times, April 26, 2010.

“Punta del Diablo walking dogs” by Andreas Kambanis is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“Slushie 3” by Iain Fergus is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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