Low-Intensity Workouts Perfect for Hot Summer Days

When it comes to working out in the summer, you might find yourself getting really sweaty really fast, especially if you're exercising outside in the heat and humidity or in a cramped gym without adequate air conditioning.

The summer heat doesn't have to derail your workout routine. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Beyond feeling uncomfortable (no one likes a soaked shirt sticking to their skin), it can also be dangerous. Exercising at high intensities in the heat is risky, since your core body temperature rises more quickly, which in turn spikes your heart rate.

Don't let the heat stop you from working out! Choose one of these low-intensity circuits and activities to stay active without putting your health at risk.

Warning

If you're experiencing heat exhaustion, you'll notice cramping and lightheadedness. It's important to get out of the heat and into a cool space, as well as cool the body down by applying ice packs to your neck and groin and drinking cool water, says Robert Glatter, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health and attending emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Tips for Summer Workouts

  • Pace yourself and drink one to two cups of water or a low-sugar sports drink at least one hour before you work out, says Dr. Glatter.
  • If your workout is longer than an hour, have a low-sugar protein bar or some salty pretzels on hand.
  • Wear moisture-wicking workout clothes, Dr. Glatter says.
  • If you'll be working out outside during the summer, schedule your workout before the sun rises or after it sets or exercise in the shade , Dr. Glatter says.
  • Choose low-intensity workouts, with less emphasis on speed and sprints.
  • Find a buddy to keep each other safe and have more fun!

Best Low-Intensity Workouts for Hot Summer Days

While HIIT might be great for weight loss, a lower-intensity workout is a better alternative for summer outdoor workouts. Luckily, low-intensity doesn't have to mean ineffective. You can still burn calories and tone up, while keeping your body safe from the heat. Here are a few options trainers recommend, all of which don't require equipment and can be done anywhere outdoors!

Park Bench Workout

Head to your neighborhood park for this outdoor workout. Focus on the muscles you're working and mastering proper form, not speed, says Rachel MacPherson, certified personal trainer.

This full-body circuit is great for boosting your metabolism and activating all muscle major groups but with a rep range that's not too high that it'd drastically increase your heart rate, she says.

1. Bulgarian Split Squat

  1. With one foot behind you on a bench, place your other foot on the ground.
  2. Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle.
  3. Straighten your legs to raise back up.

Reps: 8 to 10 on each side

2. Bench Push-Up

  1. Using the back of the bench, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms extended, with your feet on the ground angled a little more than hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the bench.
  3. Press back up to an incline plank.

Reps: 8 to 10

3. Bench Step-Up

  1. Facing the seat of the bench, step up onto the bench with your right foot.
  2. Putting your weight in your right leg, step your left foot up too.
  3. Step back down, leading with your right foot.

Reps: 16 to 10, alternating legs with each rep

4. Bench Triceps Dip

  1. Sit on the bench and place your hands behind you with your fingers facing forward.
  2. Keep your back straight and your heels on the ground, either with bent or straight knees (depending on fitness level).
  3. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  4. Lift back up.

Reps: 8 to 10

Repeat this circuit three times total.

Low-Intensity Summer Abs Workout

This workout will hit your entire core and sculpt those abs at a very low-intensity but for maximum results. That's important because "your core wraps around the middle of your whole body and includes your back, abdomen and gluteals," says MacPherson.

1. Plank

  1. Balance on your hands and feet, bracing your core and maintaining a straight line from head to toe.
  2. Keep a neutral spine and you hold — don't droop your hips or arch your back.

Reps: 30-second hold

2. Russian Twist

  1. Sit on your but with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
  2. Lean back a bit and extend your arms.
  3. Twist from side to side, maintaining a straight back and bracing your core (as if you were going to be punched) to protect your spine.

Reps: 10 to 15 on each side

3. Shoulder Tap Plank

  1. Get back into plank position.
  2. Alternate tapping one hand to opposite shoulder at a time, slowly and controlled, without swaying your hips.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine and engaged core.

Reps: 10 each side

4. Leg Lift

  1. Lie on your back and raise your legs into the air at 90 degrees.
  2. Make sure you keep a neutral spine and don't let your lower back arch off of the ground.
  3. Lower your legs just until you start to feel your lower back peel away from the ground.
  4. Raise back up.

Reps: 10 to 15

Repeat this circuit three times total.

Quick Ab Circuit Workout

You can also try this ab workout, as recommended by Rachel Fiske, certified personal trainer. Do 30 seconds of each of the following moves, resting 30 seconds in between each exercise. When you're finished, rest one to two minutes, then repeat the circuit once or twice more, depending on how much time you have.

Full-Body Body-Weight Circuit Workout

Find a grassy patch (preferably in the shade) for this full-body workout, which requires zero equipment and not much space, says MacPherson. Do each move slowly and with control to build lean muscle without skyrocketing your heart rate.

  • Walking Lunges: 8 to 10 reps
  • Push-Ups: 8 to 10 reps
  • Air Squats: 9 to 10 reps
  • Plank: 30-second hold
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times total

Go for a Light Jog or Walk

A light jog or a brisk walk can be a great low-intensity workout, especially when done on hills or sand for extra resistance. "Sand offers more resistance, which increases the intensity of your walks or runs," Fiske says.

To get even more benefits, take a walk after eating a meal. Shoot for a 20+ minute walk after a meal, such as lunch or dinner, as this helps your body regulate its insulin and glucose response and avoid spikes, she says. "If a light jog is doable for you, plan three, 20- to 30-minute jogs per week, ideally in either the morning or evening when the sun isn't as strong."

Swim Some Laps

Stay cool in the heat by swimming laps in the pool, says Lee Wratislaw, certified personal trainer and manager of digital programming for Gold's Gym. Swim 10 to 15 50-meter laps at a vigorous pace, resting for 60 seconds between each interval to get a quick and effective low-impact workout, he says. Afterward, enjoy the water, do some stretches, and recover however you choose.

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