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Becoming acclimated to heat as the summer wears on

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Posted at 11:07 AM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 12:10:04-04

Whether we're running, biking, playing a pickup game of basketball or going for a power walk, we need to take care of ourselves in this South Texas heat.

Becoming acclimated to heat as the summer wears on means you can actually spend time outside exercising and enjoy it.

The key is not to avoid the heat but rather people should go outside in small spurts and get their bodies accustomed to these higher temperatures.

“I think one of the best keys on beating the heat is to make sure you adapt slowly. If you spend a lot of time indoors in air conditioning, one of the things you should do is start to expose yourself to the heat a little more over a period of maybe 7-14 days so you can acclimate, ” said Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi Department Chair of Kinesiology Don Melrose.

When temperatures rise, the body reacts by increasing blood flow to the skin's surface, taking the heat from within the body to the surface. This means sweat.

“Avoiding the use of heavy clothing and plastic suits in this very hot environment, when realistically trying to lose weight thinking that sweating is actually fat loss, when in fact it is water loss. They are two very different things. Sweat does not seep out of your pores, ” said Melrose.

When you are outside in triple-digit heat, always listen to your body.

“You want to make sure that you are hydrated well, not only during the activity, but also before and after the activity," he said. "I don’t think it is a very good idea to think you can properly hydrate only when you’re being active so it is real important. Some things you can do are keep track of your body weight before and after, also look at the color of your urine. If it’s a very dark color, that could be an indication you are more dehydrated, where you should be looking for something that’s a lot more dilute and clear.”

Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you don't take care when exercising in the heat, you risk serious illness.

“Some of the most important signs for you, especially if you stop sweating, you will start to notice that you will be over heating very quickly at that point," Melrose said. "So again, if you also know that you are not properly hydrated then your risk is much higher for heat sickness and even heat stroke."

Young and old, we're all for challenging workouts, but if you're concerned with your health, bring it indoors.

“Probably the two most vulnerable groups of people are the elderly and also children, and again the measure of exposure is really important but with elderly you may need to take a longer adaptation period as compared to somebody who is a lot younger or in better shape. So really having a place to get out of the heat is very important, also making sure your clothing is appropriate,” said Melrose.

In addition to the high temperatures, there's a lot of moisture in the air or humidity. Sweat has a harder time evaporating because the outside air is already filled with moisture. The result is our sweat rolls off our skin and it's harder for the body to cool off, increasing the risk of dehydration over time.

One of the keys if you are going to be outside in this heat is staying hydrated. The recommendation is that you drink a half gallon or even 2 gallons of water a day.

Melrose says most of the significant research that has been done in the last several years has really been on understanding some of the general mechanism of how the body regulates heat.

However, the good part is the average consumer hasn’t changed some of the best practices for hydration and heat adaptation.