How to defend ourselves from the risks of heat injuries
During workout in hot weather conditions, it is important to pay attention to the rising body temperature. In fact, different categories of heat illness can cause harm to athletes, such as light-headedness, dizziness, syncope, heat stroke and, in extreme conditions, death.
Dehydration is the first risk: the lack of fluids leads to electrolyte imbalance, cramps,
increased heart rate and reduced blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. These alterations intensify the sense of fatigue and make the practise of physical activity harder, especially if humidity is high, because the body struggles to cool itself through the evaporation of sweat; consequently, the performance is negatively affected.
People who are particularly at risk of heat are those: overweight, dehydrated, under-conditioned, and very-muscular ones, who train themselves during the hottest time of the day (between 10.00 and 17.00), when the temperature is greater than 28°C, and not using appropriate apparels, for example without wearing a hat and/or light-coloured and loose clothes. Therefore, to train safely in the hot summer, it is important to maintain hydration by drinking 200-300 ml of water, 20 minutes before exercise and every 15 minutes during practise. Moreover, within the two hours following the workout, an adequate fluid integration is necessary to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Some studies highlighted that drinks with added carbohydrate and electrolytes are generally more effective than plain water and may be more effective if taken cold rather than at ambient temperature.
Adapt slowly and gradually!
Furthermore, is necessary to allow the body to adapt to the environment temperature, thus, training intensity and duration should be increased gradually. In the first hot days, the training sessions should last 15-40 minutes to give the body the time to acclimate. Another precaution is to choose the best time of day to do exercise: early in the morning or late in the evening, due to the temperature and humidity.
In conclusion, in the hot summer, physical activity has to be practised with attention to the internal feedback, thus respecting the body signals and acting in consequence, by reducing the intensity or taking a break whenever the effort is too excessive. Use the 6-20 Borg scale to refer your effort; if your perceived exertion ranges from very hard (>17), it is strongly suggested to reduce the intensity of your activity.
- Maughan RJ, Shirreffs SM, Ozgünen KT, Kurdak SS, Ersöz G, Binnet MS, Dvorak J.Living, training and playing in the heat: challenges to the football player and strategies for coping with environmental extremes. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Oct;20 Suppl 3:117-24. PMID: 21029198.