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Plan your workout

Summer is a great time to be outdoors and get some exercise... but what about those extreme heat and smog alerts? If you are planning to take advantage of good weather to stay in shape, here's what you should watch out for:

Heat and humidity

Even when you're resting, your system has to work harder to stay cool when it is very hot outside. To stay cool, your body usually produces more perspiration, which cools the body as it evaporates. However, when the humidity is high, sweat doesn't evaporate well because the air is already full of moisture, so you won't cool down. Your body can also get rid of excess heat by sending extra blood to the surface of the skin to cool it.

Poor air quality

In many parts of the country, high temperatures are often accompanied by smog, which is a health risk. Studies over the past few years have proven that smog can have serious effects, both short- (burning eyes, difficulty breathing, headaches, and exhaustion) and long-term (unable to fight off respiratory infections, damage to lung cells).

Tips for a safer exercise regime

Exercise early or late. Early morning and later in the evening are the best times to fit some exercise into your routine. The levels of most pollutants in the air are lower before 8:00 am and after 8:00 pm. and the temperatures are cooler

Avoid overdoing it. Short periods of exercise can help avoid over-exertion, especially in the early summer when you are not used to the heat. Three ten-minute exercise sessions have the same kinds of benefits as a full 30 minutes, so lighten your pace and take frequent breaks if you're exercising longer.

Listen to the weather reports. Keep an eye out for any warnings for your area, such as heat advisories, smog alerts, or other dangerous weather. Local weather reports also provide valuable information like UV index and air quality reports.

Avoid urban areas. Most experts agree: the worst thing to do is walk, jog or cycle on city streets where exposure to heat and pollution from cars is at its worst -- especially during rush hour. If possible, shady environments are preferable.

Dress the part. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing is best for allowing sweat to evaporate. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are a must. Choose waterproof sunscreen that won't wash off when you sweat. If you are in the water or near the water, it will reflect sunlight. It is important to choose a high SPF sunscreen and remember to reapply often.

Keep hydrated. Hot weather requires that you pay extra attention to your fluid intake when you exercise. How much do you need? It is important to drink 250-300 ml (8-12 oz.) of water before you exercise (ideally 20-30 minutes beforehand) and then 175-300 ml (6-10 oz.) for every 20-30 minutes of exercise, and another cup when you're finished.

Work out indoors. It's sunny and warm, so who wants to be inside? Actually, you might! Cooler temperatures, better air quality and reduced humidity are good reasons for an indoor workout

Try something new. You won't notice the temperature as much participating in swimming, aqua aerobics and water sports because cool water will take heat away from your body. Consider activities such as yoga or tai chi to focus on strength and flexibility instead of aerobic activity.

Know the warning signs and listen to your body. The most important thing you can do to safe guard your health is to stop and rest if you don't "feel right." Be on the look out for the signs of heat-related illnesses, smog exposure and dehydration (e.g., difficulty breathing, coughing, eye or throat irritation and fatigue.) Any serious symptoms require emergency treatment. You may want to take a pass if you aren't feeling well.

Have a plan. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, speak with a doctor about adjusting your fitness routine. Heart and breathing problems will be worse on heat and smog alert days, so it is best to plan ahead to deal with any problems. Your doctor will also warn you if any medications that you are taking (for instance, blood pressure and heart medications, allergy pills, cough and cold remedies and thyroid pills) can put you at increased risk.

Overall, if you carefully plan, educate yourself about the risks, and employ caution, you do not need to entirely avoid exercise in hot weather.

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