Hydration is always a concern during exercise, but it deserves special attention during the summer. Hot and humid weather can quickly turn thirst and fatigue into a dangerous situation and the need for medical attention. With a few simple steps and by paying attention to warning signs, you can stay safe and hydrated during your summer workouts.
Focus On Fluids
Drinking fluids hydrates cells and replenishes the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Most health experts agree that water is sufficient to keep you hydrated when exercising at a moderate intensity for less than one hour. A sports drink that replenishes electrolytes can be beneficial when exercising for longer periods, at a high intensity, or in hot and humid weather.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking when you are thirsty is adequate for most healthy adults to stay hydrated throughout the day, but don’t wait for thirst to start hydrating during exercise. The exact amount of fluid you need varies from person to person. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests monitoring both body weight and urine color to determine your hydration level. If your body weight fluctuates by one pound or less after exercise, and your urine is light in color, you are well hydrated.
After assessing hydration status, the ACSM suggests general guidelines for staying hydrated during your workout.
Drink 16-20 ounces at least four hours before exercise.
Drink 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before exercise.
During exercise, drink 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.
After your workout, drink 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.
Other Factors in Hydration
During exercise, hydration is related to your sweat rate. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself. The harder you exercise, or if you are exercising in a hot environment, the more your body is going to sweat and quickly become dehydrated. On hot days, work out in the early morning or in the evening when the sun is less intense and the temperature is cooler. Choose a route or location that is shaded. On days when the heat or humidity reach dangerous levels, take your workout indoors.
Wear light-colored clothing that will reflect sunlight and choose moisture-wicking fabrics. Clothing made of this material helps the sweat to evaporate, cooling the body. Thick fabrics like cotton can trap sweat, become heavy, and cause you to overheat.
Dangers of Dehydration and Overhydration
When your body loses more fluids than you take in, dehydration occurs. Aside from extreme thirst, the first sign of dehydration is often muscle fatigue. If you do not replenish fluids the symptoms of dehydration become more dangerous and include headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, and unconsciousness. If you suspect you are becoming dehydrated, take a break, go to a cooler environment, and drink fluids.
Unfortunately, dehydration is not the only concern when it comes to fluid balance. When you take in more fluid than your body is losing in sweat, or you take in too much water without replacing lost electrolytes, blood sodium levels drop. This condition, called hyponatremia, causes symptoms similar to, and as dangerous as, dehydration. The ACSM recommends not
consuming more than one quart of fluid per hour during exercise to prevent overhydration.
Push-ups remain one of the best exercises to strengthen and tone the upper body, but don’t limit yourself to the standard version. There are many ways to alter your position and movement during the exercise to make it more challenging and to reduce boredom with your routine.
Each of these exercises start in standard push-up position, on your toes with hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Your body should stay in a straight line from your head to your heels as you lower your chest to the ground and push back up to the starting position. Drop to your knees for a less challenging exercise.
Grip a dumbbell in each hand and get into push-up position. The weight of your upper body should be supported by the dumbbells as you grip the handles. Lower the chest to the ground, push back up to the starting position. Next, pull the right dumbbell off the ground and into your chest, performing a row exercise. Return the dumbbell to the ground and repeat with the left side. Continue to alternate a push-up with a right row and then a left row.
Position yourself in front of a stair or a sturdy, secure low bench that won’t slip. Get into push-up position with your hands on the stair and your toes or knees on the floor. Lower the chest towards the stair and push back to the starting position.
Position both hands together in the center of the floor below your chest. Move the right hand out wide to the right of your body and place it on the floor. Lower the chest towards the floor. Push up and return the right hand to the starting position. Next, move the left hand out wide to the left of your body. Lower the chest to the floor and push up returning the left hand under the chest. Continue to alternate right and left push ups.
Move your right and left hands out another two to three inches from shoulder-width. Slowly lower your chest to the floor and push back up to the starting position.
Close Grip Push-up
Position both hands together in the center of the floor below chest level. The index fingers and thumbs of both hands should touch slightly, creating a diamond shape on the floor. Lower your chest towards the floor as your elbows point back and stay in close to your torso. Lower your upper body towards the floor to the point where you still have the strength to push yourself back up.
Beginning an exercise program is not without challenges, but as your fitness improves and you find activities you like, it becomes a natural part of your lifestyle. If you struggle to find enjoyment in being active, make it easier with these tips.
Exercise with a friend.
Exercise partners keep you accountable and make activity more enjoyable. A good workout partner offers encouragement and may even provide some friendly competition to keep you motivated. When you look forward to the time you spend with another person during your workout, you will have no problem staying committed and sticking to your program.
Do something new.
Train your mind as often as you train your body. Trying different activities means that you are always learning to do something new. When you focus on increasing your knowledge, it often takes your mind off the fact that you are also getting exercise. Take a new dance class, try a watersport, or take tennis lessons. In time you may not view these commitments as exercise, but as a fun and social part of daily life, which makes staying active much easier.
Take a rest day.
If you are having trouble dragging yourself to the gym or waking up early to run, these may be signs that you are burned out. Not only do rest days refresh you mentally, they are necessary for your body to repair itself and grow stronger. Evaluate your schedule and ensure you have at least one day a week set aside to rest. Consider adding a second rest day for a while. A few days of exercise a week is better than getting burned out and not exercising at all. Incorporating rest days keeps you from feeling like exercise is a chore that never ends. After some rest, you will soon feel the desire to get moving again.
Try circuit training.
Long sessions on the stationary bike or elliptical machine can feel endless. Ditch the boredom by mixing up your workout. Design your own circuit training routine and get both cardio and strength training done in one challenging session. Simply alternate between cardio and strength performing each from 60 seconds to 3 minutes. For example, hop on the bike and pedal at a fast pace for 90 seconds.Then do the leg press for 90 seconds, followed by another segment of cardio. If you don’t have machines, there are plenty of moves to incorporate, such as jumping jacks and lunges. You will be so busy pushing yourself through each move and watching the clock to signal an exercise switch that your workout will fly by.
Combining the physical and mental benefits of a day hike with controlled calorie intake can make hiking an effective tool in your weight loss plan. Discover why hiking can help you lose weight and apply some of these tips to enhance the benefits.
The Benefit of Lower Intensity, Longer Duration Exercise
It was once believed that low to moderate intensity exercise was the most effective for weight loss due to the body’s reliance on fat for energy, often called the fat burning zone. However, current research suggests that total calories burned is a more important factor. When done for the same amount of time, more calories are burned during high intensity activities versus low intensity activities.
The long duration of hiking makes it effective for weight loss. It’s intensity level allows you to hike for hours, sometimes a full day, blasting hundreds of calories (480 calories per hour for a 150-pound female). Lower intensity, longer duration activities may also improve blood cholesterol levels and improve insulin function. A Dutch study found that when the same number of calories are burned, low intensity activity done throughout the day (walking, standing) may be more effective than short, intense activity at improving blood cholesterol and insulin levels.
The Impact of Nature on Health Behaviors
Research shows that exercising in nature can reduce feelings of depression and increase self-esteem. If weight loss is your goal, not only do these benefits give you the mental boost necessary to stick to your plan, but being surrounded by nature can influence your behaviors. Each day you are bombarded with triggers that lead to emotional eating whether it is a stressful encounter or a food commercial on television. Removing yourself from your current environment can help you recognize and control these triggers. The focus and mindfulness you gain can be applied when you return from the hike to further control emotional eating.
Watch Out for Energy Dense Snacks
Adults weighing 150 to 200 pounds can burn 1,900 to 2,500 calories on a four hour hike. The problem is that this high level of calorie burn often results in increased hunger to refuel hardworking muscles. For this reason, typical hiking snacks like energy bars and trail mix are packed with calories. They can help you replenish energy without needing to carry large amounts of food. If you want to lose weight, it’s important not to eat back all of the calories you’ve worked so hard to burn. Focus on a combination of snacks that supply complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and healthy fat that will keep you full with fewer calories. Jerky, dry cereal, vegetables with hummus, fruit with nut butter, and string cheese sticks are good choices that will stay fresh in a small insulated lunch bag for day hikes.
Try Adding Extra Gear
Hiking with a pack requires you to work harder causing an increase in calories burned. A 150-pound person hiking with a 21-42 pound pack burns about 80 more calories per hour than when hiking without a pack. Trekking poles may also be an effective alternative to boost the benefits of a hike. Results of a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that adding trekking poles to your hike can increase calories burned without causing a noticeable change in the difficulty of the activity.
Athletic shoes support proper alignment and cushion impact during activity helping to protect against injury. Your shoes should be replaced every 350 to 550 miles, or every three to six months. If you perform a specific type of exercise two to three times a week, buy a sport-specific shoe. Cross trainers are ideal if you do a wide variety of activities, but consider walking shoes, running shoes, or hiking boots if your workouts are more focused. (See Athletic Shoes: A Buyer’s Guide)
Make rest days a priority
Research shows that exercising more than 250 minutes per week results in clinically significant weight loss, but you shouldn’t skip rest days to meet that goal. The body uses rest days to recover and repair itself, which results in improved fitness. Skip rest days and you put yourself at risk for overuse injuries. Use one to two days per week to rest completely or enjoy leisure activities like a slow walk after dinner or working in the garden.
Get proper guidance
Using proper exercise form can reduce risk of injury and make your workouts more effective. Don’t jump into a new program without some guidance. Ask for instruction on how to use weight machines and use mirrors to evaluate your form. Seek alternatives for exercises that aggravate problems like knee or lower back pain. Safely executing your exercises will protect you from unnecessary injuries that can slow your progress.
Balance your training
Muscle strength imbalances occur when one muscle group gets more training than an opposing or supporting muscle group. Over time these imbalances in strength can lead to injuries. For example, runners often have hamstring weakness that leads to muscle strains. Also, overworking the abdominals without including lower back exercises may result in back pain. Choose a variety of exercises that give attention to all muscle groups. Don’t completely skip an exercise if you’ve come to dislike it. Seek out an alternative that will adequately strengthen the same muscle.
Engaging in the same activities over and over can improve your exercise performance, but it’s important to add variety to your routine. Activities that require repetitive movements (running, swimming) can lead to overuse injuries, such as shin splints and tendinitis. Cross training is a simple way to incorporate new movements while continuing to build your fitness level. If you are training for an event, such as road race, that requires you to engage in a repetitive activity, try adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT), hiking, group exercise classes, or water sports to reduce risk of injury.
Maintaining flexibility reduces injury by allowing the joints to move through a full range of motion. Flexibility training does not have to be restricted to stretching before and after an exercise session. In fact, research reviews have concluded that there is not significant evidence to support that stretching before or after your workout will decrease injury risk during that workout. What is important is incorporating flexibility training into your overall program. For some, this is easily done with full body stretches after a workout, but others may choose activities such as yoga, Pilates or martial arts to increase joint flexibility and to reduce exercise injury.