More people take their workouts outdoors as the weather warms up and sun shines more hours of the day. But as the temperature hits above 80 degrees, your outdoor workouts may put you at risk for heat exhaustion. Here’s how to stay fit and cool this summer:

Hot Weather Workouts

Here’s what happens when you exercise. Once your body starts moving, your internal core temperature increases. When it’s hot outside, this happens faster and your body automatically kicks into cooling systems to keep a constant internal core temperature median of 36.7°C and so that the brain doesn’t overheat. Cooling systems include moving the blood to the surface of the skin. The blood vessels dilate and push the blood to the skin to help cool down core temperatures. Your face, arms, and legs may get red and flushed. Sweating happens as well. The body perspires causing heat loss through sweat on the skin. With the loss of water, potassium, and sodium through sweat, the body may become dehydrated and the body systems break down in tolerating heat. Heat intolerance can lead to heat exhaustion and more severe, and potentially fatal heat stroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion symptoms include dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, vomiting, elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, confusion and loss of consciousness. If these symptoms appear or become more severe, you should seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if left untreated.

Which workouts may be best when the heat is on….

– Swimming: Just keep swimming. As Dory told us in “Finding Nemo,” “just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” Swimming is one of the best summer-time outdoor workouts. Swimming can burn 400-700 calories per hour depending on your weight and the stroke effort, but even if you don’t know how to swim, working out in the water helps keep body temperature down and calories torching.  For those who don’t swim, opt for walking and running in the water with feet on the ground. Walking backward helps tighten up the back-side of your legs and may alleviate back and knee pain. You can also don a life vest and jog in the water.

– Cycling: Easy rider. Biking is another way to keep your exercise on track when the temperatures rise. When riding outside the movement through air acts as a convection way of cooling the body. Convection is the process of losing heat through the movement of air or water molecules across the skin. Biking helps strengthen the lower body and studies from Purdue University have shown that regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent.

– Paddling: What’s SUP? Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) offers a fun way to play on the water, with the added benefit of a full-body workout. And, since you stand at full height on your board, it gives you a unique vantage point for viewing what’s down under the water and out on the horizon. Plus, stand up paddling offers a way to easily cool down body temperatures quickly by just jumping in the water.

And keep in mind that when exercising in the heat:

1. Wear reflective light colored clothing.

2. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

3. Go early in the morning or late in the day.

4. Monitor your intensity, especially if you’re new to exercise.

5. Take frequent breaks.

6. Take a cold shower before your workout.

7. Listen to your body.

Enjoy summer!


-Andrea Metcalf

Andrea is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutritionist and Health Expert. She’s based in Chicago and has appeared on NBC Today Show, USA Today,, Rueters Health Report,, Better TV and local Chicago stations. You can find her at

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