Be Active: Have Fun this Summer

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By Sally Carey

Many enjoyable, outside activities can only be done when the weather is warmer, such as golfing, kayaking, hiking, water skiing, and playing tennis.

You can take advantage of the weather by doing all the things you love to do that you cannot do the rest of the year. And be adventurous – even try a few new activities this year. But also be careful about a few things that are specific to the season.

Beat the heat

Summer is certainly a time for fun, but it’s also a time for heat. Heat is unavoidable this time of year, but the health risks associated with heat can be greatly reduced. Here are some tips:

  • Try to plan your activity for early morning or after the sun goes down. This will help you avoid the peak heat hours of 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the peak pollution and pollen hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • If you are out in the heat, try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Check the weather forecast before you go out and try to avoid exercising during heat alerts.
  • In general, it is recommended to reduce your intensity when being active in a hot environment. Slow down when needed, and rest if you feel you should.

Are you sun smart?

Even in Pittsburgh, there are lots of sunny days in the summer. Here’s how to handle them with greater success:

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultra-violet rays.
  • Wear light-colored clothes made with wicking fabrics. This material actually lifts moisture away from the skin and will help keep you cooler in the summer.
  • Avoid wearing cotton, which soaks up water and can stick to your skin when wet. This can cause skin irritation, and it doesn’t help your body cool.
  • Avoid getting too much sun. Sunburns are painful and unhealthy. Use a good sports sunscreen that is water repellant. Apply it at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply according to package instructions.
  • Wear a light-colored hat with a brim to stay cooler and shaded.

Hydration

Sweating helps regulate your body temperature in a hot environment. When sweat evaporates, heat is removed from your body. However, sweating also removes body fluids and electrolytes. When being active in the heat, it is important to rehydrate properly.

  • Drink lots of fluids – before, during and after being active. It is recommended to drink three cups of fluids to replace each pound of body weight you lose when exercising.
  • Bring fluids with you if you plan to spend more than 30-45 minutes exercising in the heat.
  • Replacing electrolytes during sports activities is important, especially in hot weather. Perspiring excessively leads to a greater loss of fluids and electrolytes, which can be detrimental. Be sure to focus on a diet of nutritious foods that are rich in electrolytes, such as dairy, bananas and orange juice. If you do not have any sodium restrictions, you can increase sodium in your diet. You can also replace electrolytes during a workout by consuming electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks, or try sodium-enriched coconut water for an all-natural alternative that offers an unbeatable electrolyte balance.  You can dilute these drinks or alternate drinking them with pure water.
  • Alcohol promotes the loss of body fluids. Avoid drinking alcohol before or during exercise, especially in the heat, and afterwards until you are fully rehydrated.
  • Beware of excessive caffeine intake as well because caffeine also promotes the loss of body fluids.
  • Milk is a great drink after you exercise. If calories are not an issue, try chocolate milk which also offers healthy anti-oxidants.

Avoid sun stroke

Be careful about potential sun stroke. Here’s what to look for:

  • Very hot, dry skin
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Confusion and unconsciousness
  • If these conditions exist, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

Being outside when the weather is nice is a lot of fun. Remembering these safety tips will help you enjoy your summer activities even more.

Sally Carey is Program Manager of Physical Activity for UPMC Health Plan. For more information, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.

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