The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Exercise in the Heat

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In the hot days of summer, common warnings involve avoiding the heat. What about the advantages of heat? Hot environments can improve your health in several ways.

Done right:
  • Exercising in the heat improves your fitness level and ability to exercise.
  • Exercising in the heat increases your tolerance to heat, making life more comfortable in the heat.
  • Exercising in the heat prevents the decreases in heat tolerance that otherwise occur with increased age, which can be unhealthy, even dangerous.
Exercising in the heat makes positive changes in your body that improve your fitness. You increase blood volume, improve cooling ability, make changes in sweating, increase the vasculature that helps circulation, cooling and exercising at the same time, increase specific chemical compounds in the body that improve health and ability to exercise.

When you exercise and increase body temperature, your body produces more of an interesting compound called heat shock protein. Heat shock proteins are families of proteins that do several things including preventing other proteins from damage by infection, ultraviolet light, starvation, heat, cold, and other harsh conditions. Heat shock proteins are thought to mobilize immune function against infections and diseases, even cancer.

Improved ability to tolerate heat without discomfort, called heat adaptation, occurs fairly quickly - with large improvements within the first week of exerting in the heat. Exercising in heat is more effective to produce heat acclimatization than heat exposure without exercise. Aerobic fitness is a major factor in heat tolerance.

It is a myth that you must avoid sweating to stay healthy. Exercising enough to sweat makes you more flexible, increases many chemical reactions in your body that are healthy. Sweat itself has compounds beneficial for your skin and body. Don't worry that you must exercise only indoors in air-conditioning in order to do healthful exercise. A protective environment does prevent initial discomfort, but reduces benefits and the ability to be comfortable in the heat.

This all does not mean to go out and cause yourself heat injury by overdoing without thinking. It is to gain the many benefits of exercising safely in the heat



I will cover more physical changes from exercise in the heat that improve health and exercise level in future articles.

Related:

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Exercise in the heat photo by Ahron de Leeuw
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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