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7 Cool Steps for Workouts in the Heat

group of runners in city park

Winter, spring, summer, or fall, regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But when the temperature rises, so does the risk for heat-related illnesses, including cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. These can happen when the body can’t cool itself fast enough.

The Mayo Clinic advises taking these precautions when exercising in hot weather:

  1. Watch the temperature. Check weather forecasts and heat alerts before you start your outdoor workout to see what the temperature is expected to be. If you're concerned about the heat or humidity, stay indoors. Work out at the gym, or walk laps or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.
  2. Start slowly. If you’re used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, or if you’re new to exercise or not in the best of shape, be extra cautious when you exercise in the heat. Start slowly, and take lots of breaks. Gradually increase the length and intensity of your workout over a week or more.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Don't wait until you’re thirsty. Help your body sweat and cool down by drinking water frequently.
  4. Dress the part. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing to help sweat evaporate and keep you cooler. If possible, wear a light-colored, wide-brimmed hat.
  5. Respect the sun. Exercise in the morning or evening, when it’s likely to be cooler. Try to exercise in shady areas. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply at least every 2 hours or after sweating. A sunburn decreases your body's ability to cool itself and increases the risk of skin cancer.
  6. Use the buddy system. Exercise with a friend to watch for signs of problems. Get help if you experience cramps, nausea, fatigue, headache, profuse sweating, dizziness, confusion, irritability, or vision problems. These can be signs of a heat-related illness.
  7. Check with a doctor, if necessary. Certain medical conditions or medications can increase your risk of a heat-related illness. Talk to your doctor about precautions.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.