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10 Ways to Beat the Heat While Staying Fit

By Dr. Jon Thomas DC, BCIM

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In most parts of the country, the summer is one of the best times of the year to kick your exercise regimen up a notch.  When it comes to staying fit in Florida, you need to take another tack since June, July and August can produce afternoon temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s on a daily basis.  While many people want to continue such activities as jogging, bicycling, golf, tennis, kayaking, and other healthy pastimes you will need a strategy unless you want to wind up making a pit stop in the nearest ER. You need to use your head if you want to do your body good and avoid the effects of heat.

It is important to understand how exercising in hot climates effects the body and presents some dangers. In hot weather exercising places added stress on the body and can lead to serious illness or complications if you are not careful. During exercise your core body temperature rises, adding humidity and higher temperatures increases this effect. As your body begins to control this it shifts more blood to the skin of your body to cool it, leaving less blood for the muscles your using and leads to a higher heart rate to compensate for the deficiency. Adding humidity, like we have here in Florida, will effect your bodies ability to sweat by reducing evaporation from the skin of your body. The effects of these conditions results in core body temperatures that raise to unsafe levels.

Here ten tips you can do to beat the heat!

Tip #1: Timing is Everything

While it’s true that Floridians build up a tolerance to the heat, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind when it comes to exercising in the great outdoors.  During the latter part of May and the early part of June, the mornings are significantly cooler than the afternoons.  This makes it the perfect time to pursue strenuous activities, provided you bring along plenty of water.  Once we reach the dog days of summer, even the mornings can be dangerously hot and humid.  My advice for runners and cyclists during July and August is to do your thing indoors.  That’s one reason stationary bicycles and treadmills were invented.

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Tip #2: Water Works

When you exercise in warm weather, you need to drink at least 10 ounces of water every 15 minutes. Since there are 128 ounces in a gallon, this means consuming 1/3 of a gallon of water per hour.  While toting water can be a chore, since a gallon weighs 8 pounds, your body requires it to function properly.  Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, disorientation and fainting, none of which is desirable when you are running or biking on a busy street.

Tip #3: Dress for Success

While you might look cute as a button in that tank top and pair of short shorts, you may rethink that assessment if you wind up with a case of sunburn the next day.  Unless you plan on limiting your outdoor activities to the dawn patrol, you need to wear a loose-fitting t-shirt and shorts that go to mid-thigh to retain moisture and thwart the sun.  Also, make sure you apply a coating of sunblock to any exposed skin if you plan on being outside at or after 10 am since that’s when the sun can burn you.  All it takes is 20-minutes exposure to sunlight to start a burn.  Remember, they don’t call Florida the Sunshine State for nothing.

Tip #4: Acclimate Yourself

It can take the body up to 2-weeks to acclimate itself to the heat.  This means you should scale back and then gradually ramp up the intensity of your exercise routines during the summer months.   Push your body too hard, too fast, and you could wind up doing your body more harm than good.  Just this past April a 34-year-old runner died after crossing the finish line at a half-marathon in Minnesota.  The temperature was unseasonably warm, which may have contributed to his collapse.

Tip #5:  Know When to Say When

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While your usual morning jog might be 5-miles, it’s perfectly alright to cut it short if your head starts pounding, or your muscles begin to cramp.  Wimping out is far better than stroking out when the heat is on.   Better to fail at fitting into that swimsuit you’ve had your heart set on then succeeding in having the finest physique in the cemetery.

Tip #6: Salt Saves

Not only does your body sweat water in the heat, it also sheds salt.  Sodium and potassium help the body regulate fluid balance and muscle activity.   Working out in the heat necessitates we replenish these electrolytes.  Should your electrolyte levels bottom out, you are in for trouble.  While many people consume sports drinks to replace these minerals, these beverages also contain sweeteners.  The best way to replace both sodium and potassium is to consume a cup of plain yogurt topped with a sliced banana before your workout.

Tip #7: Cool It

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While taking a cold shower after a workout feels great, a better practice is to take one before working out.  By precooling your body prior to exertion, your body will be better able to handle the rigors of exercise in the heat.  Endurance athletes routinely don cooling vests or run with a latex glove filled with ice to keep their core temperatures down during training.  While you might not be in training for an Iron Man competition, it still makes sense to follow in their footsteps when it comes to doing whatever it takes to keep cool while working out is a safe bet.

Tip #8: Have a Backup Plan

Anytime your workout routine takes you far from home on a steamy day; you need to have a backup plan should you decide it is time to call it quits.  That means carrying your cellphone, so you can call a friend or Uber to pick you up.  The last thing you want to face is the possibility of a long walk back to your car on a hot summer day when your pulse is racing, and you are sweating profusely.  Should that happen, the next vehicle you could wind up in is the kind with flashing lights and a siren on top.

Tip #9: It’s Not Just the Heat. It’s the Humidity.

Humidity is another factor you need to take into consideration in the summer.  Sweat is the body’s way of cooling down since evaporation is one way to reduce heat.  When the humidity is high, as it always is during the summer in Florida, sweating doesn’t work as well in terms of cooling, since the air is already saturated with moisture.  As a result, your body can dangerously overheat when you exercise outdoors during the summer months.

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Tip #10: Listen to Your Body

The old adage, “No pain, no gain,” might be a great way to wind up in the hospital this summer.  Particularly when it is hot out, you need to heed your body’s warning signs.  If you start feeling fatigued midway through your workout, take a cool down break.  If your head begins to spin, if your muscles start to cramp or your heart starts to race, it’s time to call it quits for the day.  Pressing through the pain is never a good idea when you add heat and humidity to the equation. 

While staying active year round is always a good idea, you need to use your head if you want to beat the heat while staying fit.

Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. His practice, The Vibrant Life Health Center, is located in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. After studying and learning from some of the top health experts throughout the world, Dr. Thomas dedicated his life to helping people of all ages to transform their lives. The objective for each patient is to initiate the body’s healing and to work progressively toward a body that functions optimally. Dr. Thomas is regularly seen on TV on First Coast Living, where he discusses the transformations of his patients. He also speaks at events throughout the community and writes informative articles to improve the health of residents throughout Northeast Florida.


  1. Great tips for dealing with the summer heat when exerting yourself, thanks.

  2. Having been an EMT, I can't tell you how many people we rushed to the ER after their morning jog in the height of summer. Don't overdo it when it's hot out.