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Sunny & Safe Fitness Tips 
Summer Exercise Spotlight

After a long, cold winter—and more than a few cancelled workouts—getting outside to move your body is a physical and psychological boon. The sun stimulates production of vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone development, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is partly responsible for our feelings of emotional contentment. So, take advantage of the sun’s rays, but exercise a few precautions and you’ll have an energizing rather than exhausting summer fitness routine.

  • Timing is everything: Plan your outdoor workouts for early morning or late afternoon. The sun is at its hottest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., putting you at risk for dehydration, sunburn, and heat-related conditions. If the temperature climbs to 90°F (32°C) or higher, substitute your planned strenuous activity with a more moderate one. Be strategic when choosing your running, walking, and biking routes; look for shaded bike paths, parks, and trails.
  • Good fashion sense: Start your day by slathering on sunscreen labeled SPF 15 or higher. Sports sunscreens provide additional water- and sweat-proof protection—especially important for swimmers, kayakers, and other water-bound sports enthusiasts. Dress in light-colored clothing to deflect the sun’s rays. A tightly woven shirt will keep out vexing UV rays and should cover your back, shoulders, and neck. Make sure your clothing is loose-fitting so sweat has a chance to evaporate, keeping you cool and comfortable. Don’t forget your helmet, hat, or bandana. Top off your outfit with UV-protection sunglasses.
  • Drink up! Sun mixed with humidity can be a dangerous combination if you add strenuous exercise. Normally a hot body cools itself by sweating. When humidity levels rise, sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly and your body temperature can spike dangerously. This can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and, worst-case scenario, heatstroke. Staying hydrated is your best defense. Adults of average weight should drink 12 cups (2.84 liters) of water a day. People of above-average weight should drink additional liquids. Physically active school-age kids should drink 6 to 8 cups (1.42 to 1.9 liters) a day.

People sweating a lot during prolonged exercise may need to drink electrolyte-containing sports drinks in order to replace depleted sodium and other minerals, which, if not replaced, can cause cramps and other problems.

During your workout, if you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated—stop! Get out of the sun and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Seek out a shady tree and a tall glass of iced lemonade, and put off your workout for another day. This is one situation where procrastination is a good thing.

Occasionally, water can be too much of a good thing: The risk of depleting sodium from drinking lots of liquid without adequate electrolyte replacement can be a serious problem. And some people are prone to developing excessive fluid retention by drinking abundantly during prolonged exercise. If you end your exercise feeling waterlogged, or notice that you weigh more at the end of a long workout or competition, see a qualified sports health professional for individualized advice.

Top Tips for Extreme Athletic Performance

Reach the peak of athletic performance by learning some fitness essentials. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.

  • Eat more carbs: Supply the body with efficient energy fuel found in grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and carbohydrate-replacement drinks
  • Obey your thirst: Drink fluids before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration, but avoid overdrinking, too
  • Take a multivitamin: When your diet isn’t enough, extra vitamins and minerals will help your body get the nutrition it needs for exercise
  • Check out creatine monohydrate: Take 15 to 20 grams a day of this supplement for five or six days to improve performance of high-intensity, short-duration exercise (like sprinting) or sports with alternating low- and high-intensity efforts

A Tip for Young Athletes: Stay Hydrated & Stay Cool

Getting overheated, especially when not drinking enough fluids, can lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening even in young and healthy athletes. According to a report published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a panel of experts in sports medicine issued the following recommendations:

Stay hydrated

Young sports players tend to drink less than is needed to maintain good hydration levels. Worse, researchers have found that young athletes are often dehydrated when they arrive for practice, making it much more difficult to stay at a safe hydration level.

  • Each participant should start every practice well-hydrated, well-nourished, well-rested, and with a normal body temperature.
  • Kids should take breaks during practice sessions for rest, cooling, and rehydration every 30 to 45 minutes, and more often as heat and humidity rise.
  • Chilled fluids should be close at hand, and the breaks should be long enough to encourage adequate intake.

Get used to the heat

To minimize the risk of heat injury through acclimatization and conditioning:

  • Implement gradual increases in practice intensity and duration, as well as gradual introduction of protective gear, over the first two weeks of preseason practice.
  • Players should remove helmets, shoulder pads, and other insulating covering during practice as often as is appropriate.
  • Workout clothing should be light-colored, as some evidence suggests that this can help reduce the risk of overheating.

Stay cool

The panel offered these further recommendations for protecting young athletes from heat injury:

  • Schedule practices during the cooler times of day, such as morning and evening, and not between noon and 4 pm—the hottest time of day. Cancel practice if the weather conditions pose a danger.
  • In addition to making hydration drinks available and appealing, encourage players to take their regular drink breaks in the shade.
  • Any player that appears to be sick should be excused from practice.
  • Be sure coaches and staff are trained to look for signs of heat stress: pale color, bright red flushing, dizziness, headache, excessive fatigue, fainting, vomiting, complaining of being hot or cold, and changes in performance, personality, or well-being should all be considered warning signs and players with these symptoms should immediately be removed from practice.

(Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005;37:1421-30)

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