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Tips for staying cool when exercising outdoors

By the time summer finally arrives, most of us can't seem to spend enough time outside — doing everything from dining on patios to jogging in the fresh air. But if you're active in the heat, you're at risk for a number of heat illnesses like muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

Weather conditions play a big role in how your body regulates its temperature. For example, if it's windy, sweat evaporates faster, which helps to cool you. However, high humidity slows down this process, contributing to increased body temperature.

This doesn't mean you can't enjoy some workouts al fresco; just learn how to stay safe while you reap the benefits of physical activity in the warm weather. Here are some tips from Health Canada.

1. Know your risks. Your body is not used to extreme heat at the beginning of the summer or if you don't exercise regularly during hot weather. Your risk increases if you have certain conditions, like breathing difficulties, heart problems or a mental illness such as depression. Watch for symptoms of heat illness including dizziness, nausea, headache, unusually rapid breathing and heartbeat, and extreme thirst.

2. Be prepared. Check the weather and the Air Quality Health Index before you start to exercise so you can modify your physical activity as needed. If you will be in an area where mosquitoes are active, protect yourself with insect repellent.

3. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty since by that time you're already dehydrated. Take extra water breaks — move into the shade, drink water and remove gear such as a helmet or equipment to let your body cool off.

4. Dress for the occasion. Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric. Shade yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat. If you can't avoid the sun, use a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher. Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun's UV rays but not from the heat. Sunburned skin is also less effective at sweating, putting you at greater risk for heat illness.

5. Be realistic. Don't expect your usual performance during extreme heat. Allow your body to recover after heat exposure. Spend a few hours in a cooler tree-shaded area or somewhere that's air conditioned like a shopping mall, grocery store or public building, such as the public library or community centre.



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