Just like the type of shoes you wear and the food you consume, weather can play a major factor in your workout. Extremely hot and cold conditions can impact your performance, particularly when engaging in cardio exercises such as running and walking.
Hot weather can place added stress on your body, and even lead to serious illness. Your body has a natural cooling system that delivers more blood to circulate when exercise and increased air temperature take their toll. However, this leaves less blood circulation for your muscles, causing your heart to work harder and beat faster. Humidity also plays a roll, as it prevents sweat from evaporating from the skin, causing body temperature to rise even more.
Hot Weather Risks
Working out in hot weather conditions can lead to a number of illnesses including heat cramps, exhaustion and heatstroke. These occur when the body’s cooling system fails to function due to extreme heat and humidity, sweating excessively and not drinking enough fluids.
Staying Safe in the Heat
Avoid working out in extremely hot and humid temperatures. People with cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure are especially at risk of illness. Always opt for a cooler environment or fitness space, if possible. When working out in hot weather conditions, be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. According to the Road Runners Club of America, you should drink 10 to 15 ounces of water about 15 minutes before going running, as you can lose anywhere between 6 to 12 ounces of fluids for every 20 minutes of running. For longer runs, make sure to drink water every 20 minutes or so. Each body functions differently, so to determine proper hydration jump on a scale before and after running and record how many pounds you lost. Consume 1 pint of fluid for every pound lost. Also, refrain from consuming caffeine and alcohol prior to exercise, as it causes dehydration. Wear light clothing, avoid layering and always apply sun block prior to running outdoors.
Unlike hot weather, cold weather does not pose as severe of a risk to the body during a cardio workout. In fact, activities that produce heat, such as running and walking, are better suited for cooler temperatures. However, cooler temperatures increase dryness and, when temperatures are at freezing, cause the heart rate to work harder to keep the body at a stable temperature.
Cold Weather Risks
In extreme cases, cold weather can lead to hypothermia, which occurs when the body’s temperature drops to abnormal levels. People with heart disease are also more at risk for heart attack when partaking in strenuous activity in extremely cold conditions.
Staying Safe in Cold Weather
When working out in cold temperatures, be sure to dress warmly. Also take note that the hands and head tend to be colder than the legs and trunk areas of the body. Be sure to wear gloves, a hat and a scarf, if needed. Drink plenty of water and be sure to warm up before your workout to increase your body temperature.
- Mayo Clinic: Heat and Exercise: Keeping Cool in Hot Weather
- The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions-Seconds Count: How Extreme Weather Can Affect Your Heart
- Healthy.Net: Cold Weather Walking and Running
- Fit Day: Running in Cold Weather—Good For Your Body?
- Road Runners Club of America: Hot Weather Running Tips