exerciseWhen you were younger, you could run five miles on a hot summer day, drink a couple bottles of water, and keep right on going. But the older you get, your body becomes less and less efficient at regulating its own temperature (you’re sweating less, compounded by medications and health conditions), and heat exhaustion and even heat stroke become very real possibilities.

But that certainly doesn’t mean you should sit on the couch in the AC all summer long. With the proper awareness and precautions, you can remain active from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Early or late is best

Most people know to remain inside at noon when the sun is highest in the sky and most intense. But contrary to popular belief, temps aren’t at their highest then. The mercury actually reaches its peak between 3 and 6 p.m., when the sun has had many hours to warm up the environment, and is lowest right before sunrise. So if you want to garden, bike or run on a summer day, it’s best to go outside before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

Light and loose

It’s important to keep your clothes loose so air can get in to evaporate perspiration and cool your body off. Just as important is to keep what you wear light-colored to reflect heat away from your body, so you don’t get quite as hot to begin with. And of course, don’t forget the hat and the sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.

Drink plenty and often

Perspiration—and the evaporation of that perspiration—is the way your body keeps from overheating. Unfortunately though, most seniors are sufficiently hydrated to produce that sweat. Before you head out to exercise, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages) and be sure to carry water on your walk or bike trip, taking a drink every 15 minutes, even when you’re not thirsty. Finish up your workout with more refreshment.

Change your routine

On very hot and humid days, trade in your walk or run for a bike ride (the wind will keep you cooler) or a swim in cool water. You should also break up your workouts into shorter intervals to keep from overheating.

Pay attention to your body

If you’re outdoors and become dizzy, faint or nauseous (or experience other unusual symptoms), drink some water, spray yourself with cool water, and seek an air-conditioned or at least shady spot to cool down. Seek medical help if your symptoms do not resolve.

You can work out your muscles, joints, heart and lungs just as well riding a stationery bike or walking the mall as lapping your neighborhood. If the heat is too oppressive, be smart and stay inside!


Share your tips for summertime fitness.