South Florida heat and humidity soar to new highs. Is it too dangerous to exercise outside? – Sun Sentinel

Edith Thomas starts her day with a morning walk, right around the time of sunrise. But lately, the 80-year-old Boca resident has been rethinking her routine with temperatures forcing her to stop and rest every few blocks.

“It’s so insanely hot,” she said.

South Florida has been both hotter and more humid than usual this summer, with local meteorologists repeatedly announcing “the big story is the heat” as they show “feel-like” temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

In a state of beautiful beaches and parks, Floridians love to take advantage of running, hiking, biking, and outdoor exercise. Plus, exercising outdoors has health benefits: It can help prevent depression and anxiety, because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your predisposition. “It’s a natural mood lifter,” says John Stout, a fitness and lifestyle coach in Broward County.

Exercise itself, even something as simple as walking slowly, produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood.

The problem, however, is that heat exhaustion can set in quickly and quickly turn into heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104 degrees. On soccer fields or during boot camps, anyone exercising outdoors this summer should be aware of the risks of reaching a point where the body is unable to cool down.

An additional danger in South Florida is the high humidity. When the humidity is high, your sweat can’t evaporate as easily and your body struggles to cool itself, leaving you more prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“The humidity makes you sweat less, but it feels like it’s more because the sweat can’t evaporate from the skin,” says Dr. Cory Harlow, an emergency physician at West Boca Medical Center who has treated patients for heat-related illness. . “It’s dangerous because you’re not cooling yourself effectively.”

Local doctors say no one should exercise between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in South Florida’s summer heat

“If you want to exercise after 10 a.m., don’t do it outdoors,” Stout said. “Especially if you’re over 50. Some younger people, especially athletes, can handle the heat, but when you’re older, safety is most important.”

Research shows that older adults cannot adapt to sudden temperature changes as quickly as younger people and are most vulnerable when the heat rises.

dr. O’Neil Pyke, chief medical officer at Jackson North, said when the sun is at its most intense in the afternoon, you’re much better off exercising indoors, such as using a treadmill or stationary bike, group fitness classes, or even taking up exercise. swimming.

Pyke recommends switching before the summer and using it as an opportunity to discover something new. “It’s impossible that your body won’t be affected when you’re out in the hot sun. But the heat shouldn’t stop you from exercising at home.”

Free apps, such as Nike Training Club, MyFitness Pal, and Daily Yoga, provide customized workout routines that you can do at home. And some people have started using household items, such as textbooks and soup cans, for fitness equipment.

Michael Zourdos, professor and department chair of Exercise Science and Health Promotion at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, said that, even as a marathoner, he has changed his exercise time to 4:30 a.m. in the summer and lowered his speed. “I’m not worried about my pace in the summer either. I notice that my heart rate in 80 degrees of heat and 90 percent humidity is higher than in January, when it is 60 degrees and low humidity. The heat certainly affects your performance.”

Hydration is critical when exercising outdoors. Stout says you should start drinking fluids before exercising, such as two to three hours before. He recommends water with lemon.

When you exercise in the evening, you can increase your body’s hydration by eating water-rich foods, such as cucumbers and watermelon, throughout the day.

While exercising, Stout recommends not quenching your thirst by swallowing water or Gatorade. “Never mind. Don’t slurp, because that upsets your stomach and can cause cramps.”

You should initially hydrate with about two to three cups or about 20 ounces of water within two hours of starting your outdoor workout, then seven to 10 ounces of water for every 10 to 20 minutes of activity, Zourdos says at FAU.

“It’s so important to make sure you’re hydrated before exercising outside,” he said. “You can’t catch up after you’ve started. That’s a bad idea.”

Stout, who teaches outdoor group classes in Plantation’s Central Park, says you should take a break as soon as you get dizzy.

Here are some signs that you are experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • High body temperature (103 degrees F or higher)
  • Warm, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting

Harlow of West Boca Medical Center said the warning signs could be incremental.

“It can start with muscle cramps and weakness, and then your sweating becomes less efficient and you get heat cramps. That’s the start of a ramp to danger,” he said. “As your body becomes more overloaded, it becomes heat exhausted and you feel lethargic, confused, and your overall ability to function deteriorates.”

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The next stage is more dangerous, he said. “It progresses to heat stroke and organ system failure, where you will vomit and have significant confusion. It can go from mild to severe quickly, within 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your level of exertion and the temperature around you.

To stave off that progression, Harlow recommends having someone with you rather than just exercising outside and letting them know if you have any warning signs.

No matter how often or intensively you exercise outdoors for the rest of the year, experts advise taking it easy in the summer.

“If you normally run four to five miles it’s not a problem. If it’s hot and humid it would be better to go back to two to three,” Harlow said.

Zourdos of FAU said another option is to train more intensively indoors a few days a week and less intensively outdoors once a week. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”

If you go outside to exercise, feel overwhelmed by the heat and have doubts, don’t go, he said. “If you’re training for your health, why risk your health?”

Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Godoman can be reached at [email protected]

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