You’ve taken up walking to change up your lifestyle from spending most of your time on the couch watching the tv. to enjoying the outdoors as you take your daily walk around the block, or up on a mountain trail. But you’re walking and that’s one of the best low-impact forms of exercise you can be doing for yourself.
But with the sun now high in the sky and the possibility of the humidity starting to climb, just how safe is it for you to be walking out in that sun and heat? Both the exercise itself and the air temperature and humidity can increase your core body temperature. To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. And if you also suffer from diabetes, which is one of the reasons you probably took up walking in order to lose weight and get your A1C down to an acceptable level.
But walking in the heat and humidity of a summer day can have some adverse effects on you as well. You need to be extra careful when temperatures climb dramatically. Extreme heat can affect your blood sugar control. If you use insulin or if your treatment of blood sugars is inadequate, this can put you at higher risk
If a person’s blood sugars are mostly higher than 250 mg/dl, it’s recommended that you work on improving your blood sugar control before engaging in heavy physical activity, regardless of the climate and the temperature, as recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
If the heat and you’re walking activity makes you sweat profusely, you may become dehydrated, leading to a rise in glucose levels.
If you become dehydrated, your blood glucose levels will rise. This can lead to frequent urination, which then leads to further dehydration and even higher blood sugar levels — a kind of vicious cycle.
Further, if the treatment includes insulin, dehydration reduces blood supply to the skin and, therefore, less absorption of injected insulin dosage. One way to make sure your drinking enough water on these sunny days in order to keep yourself hydrated, is to take along a good, insulated container like the Klean Kanteen . This bottle of choice can keep 20 oz of liquid cold for up to 24 hours. And with its specially designed cap, which can clip to your belt loop via a carabiner you will be able to stay hydrated for a good amount of time.
Listen to your body and learn the warning signs to look out for as you head outdoors in the sun.
Your body will tell you when you can push yourself, and when it's time to coast. If you develop a headache or become dizzy or weak, stop exercising and head for a cool place. Severely elevated body temperatures for a prolonged period can lead to a loss of consciousness, vomiting, or heat stroke. If you feel faint, drink plenty of cool fluids, and rest immediately.
Check Your Heart Rate: Cardio exercise combined with scorching temps can put some serious stress on your body; heating body temperatures and jacking up your heart rate. This is especially true in high humidity since sweat takes longer to evaporate from your skin so it's harder for heat to dissipate. Wearing a heart rate monitor can help you determine how hard to push yourself and when to hold back. One like the Polar M600 Strapless GPS Heart Rate Monitor SmartWatch is a dependable, accurate smartwatch that you can use to keep track of your heart rate not only when the sun is high in the sky but anytime. You can wear it night and day and track your heart rate accurately so that you know when you need to slow down.
You should drink 2 or 3 cups of cold water about 10 to 20 minutes before you begin walking. During your walk, drink at least a couple more cups of cold water. When you finish walking, drink water again. Don't rely on thirst to tell you when to drink; it's not always an adequate guide to your body's need for fluid.
Another important preventive measure is to slow down your pace and intensity when the temperature is high, especially during the first few days of a hot spell. By walking for a shorter time at a lower intensity early on, you'll give your body a chance to adjust its cooling mechanism to the heat.
During hot weather, you should schedule you’re walking workouts for the coolest part of the day, early morning or evening. Avoid walking late in the morning or during the afternoon when the sun's rays are most powerful.
Also, try walking in shaded areas, such as parks, forest preserves, and tree-lined streets. If there's a breeze, walk with the breeze at your back during the first half of your walk. Then, for the second half of your workout, when you're hot and sweaty, walk into the breeze.
Proper clothing can also help you beat the heat. In hot, humid weather, wear as little as you can. Choose breathable fabrics that will allow your sweat to evaporate. (material that wicks away moisture from your skin would be the best choice.)
Wear lightweight shorts and a loose-fitting T-shirt or tank top, or try a fishnet vest that lets air in and out. Also, be sure to choose light colors that reflect the sun's rays. If chafing is a problem, spread a little petroleum jelly on your skin in the affected areas.
Many walkers wear jogging outfits, which are available in various materials and designs. If you want to wear a jogging suit, make sure to get one that is made of a porous material.
In warm or hot weather, you don't want heat and moisture to be trapped; you want it to circulate and escape to keep your body cool. So, your warm-weather walking outfit should be made of either cotton or a lightweight, porous synthetic fiber and it should fit loosely without getting in your way.
Whatever you do, shun rubber, plastic, or otherwise nonporous sweat suits. They create a hot, humid environment and interfere with the evaporation of sweat. Wearing them makes you an easy target for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Most of these recommendations listed above are based on facts, but good old common sense will go a long way to allowing you to continue with your walking through the summer months, fall, winter, and spring. We can discuss the best way to walk when the cold snap comes, but for now, we have a few months to enjoy that summer sunshine.
Walk but walk smart! From your walking buddies at PedometersUSA.com.