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Exercise caution while sweating it out

Exercising is great for you most of the time, the summer heat can really play havoc with the most well-intentioned schedules.

health and fitness Updated: May 02, 2009 20:59 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Exercising is great for you most of the time, the summer heat can really play havoc with the most well-intentioned schedules. If you don’t have enough water and electrolytes before you start working out, you can end up with muscular cramps, which strike anywhere, anytime: outdoors, in the gym or even in the pool. Worse, you can end up dizzy or sick, so it’s best to make sure you hydrate yourself all the time.

Heat cramps while exercising are among the first indicators of dehydration. Exercising generates heat that the body tries to lose through increased sweating, even as the heart pumps more blood to to help muscles to work.

But when you sweat too much, you lose a lot of body fluids, which in turn, reduces the volume of blood. The heart then, has to pump harder to supply the reduced amount of blood to the muscles and vital organs, which can cause cramping.

The next phase is heat exhaustion, which makes you palpitate, sweaty, dizzy and nauseated. If you haven’t stopped exercising by now, do so at once as this condition can rapidly progress to a heat stroke, where your skin turns warm and dry. While there is no sweating, there’s a drop in blood pressure; you can even feel confused and sometimes even become unconscious. Stop at once and sit in a cool place and sip some water.

Early symptoms of heat injury may vary from person to person, so stop and cool down at the first signs of a headache, or a spell of dizziness, nausea, cramps or palpitation. Air-conditioning doesn’t ensure protection: even exercising in an air-conditioned gym with many others can cause heat stress.

Symptoms apart, a good way figure out when to stop, is by calculating your Target Heart Rate (THR). The simplest way to
calculate your Target Heart Rate is to subtract your age from 220, which is the maximum times your heart can beat in one minute.

If you are a beginner, your target heart rate should be between 60 to 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate but after six months, you can safely exercise up to 85 per cent. Your pulse rate should not exceed the target heart rate.

A good way to monitor your body fluid level is to weigh yourself every morning. If your weight is a kilogram lower than usual in the mornings, you may be dehydrated and need to drink more water before doing any vigorous activity.

If you are starting to exercise outdoors, allow time for your body to get used to the heat, which can take up to a week or two, before stepping up the intensity. Always adjust training intensity to conditions by lowering intensity as the temperature and humidity goes up. Always wear light, comfortable clothes and a protective cap, if you are exercising outdoors.

To prevent dehydration, people should drink two glasses of water half an hour before exercising, half a glass while exercising or 30 minutes into the workout. Also drink two glasses within half an hour after the workout is over. Feeling thirsty is a delayed response to dehydration, so you should make sure you have adequate liquids even as you exercise. While sports drinks with vital salts like sodium and potassium help hydration, overdosing on sports drinks is bad as the high amount of sugar in it can cause stomach cramps.