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Hot for Sports – 6 Ways to Stay Active in a Heatwave

Athletic Woman in Grey Dress Leaping on Beach

Unusually (even for the height of summer), the UK is experiencing an intense heatwave. For sun seekers and heat baskers, it's a rare opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. And one of the best ways to enjoy a beautiful sunny day is with sports and physical activities.

When exercising or playing sports in the heat, it's easy to become dehydrated and develop heatstroke. The intensity of summer sun puts a strain on the body, particularly during physical movement. Even if you stick to the shade, it's important to drink plenty of water and take a break if you feel dizzy or get a headache.

Here's some advice you can use to ensure summer sports stay safe:

Drink Plenty of Water

Everyone sweats in the heat, but you're going to lose bodily fluids even faster when playing sports. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. If you're planning to be active, drink before, during and after your sport or activity session. Dehydration is easy to treat, but symptoms can progress quickly.

Stop playing immediately and retreat to a cool, shady location if dizziness is persistent, it becomes hard to pee, or you start to feel extremely lethargic.

Take Regular Breaks

It is safe to exercise in hot weather as long as you listen to your body and give it what it needs. For example, you may be unable to move at your normal speed. If performance is worse than usual, think about whether the heat is likely to be responsible. Consider the potential consequences of trying to reach your usual level of intensity. If necessary, take more breaks than normal.

Where possible, play or exercise in shady conditions. Drink water every time you rest. And, most importantly, realise intense weather is no time to prioritise winning above personal safety!

Protect Your Skin

When exercising outdoors, make sure to protect your skin from the sun. Ideally, you should wear a hat, but this may not be possible when playing the most vigorous sports. If this is the case, try to wear a hat whenever it is appropriate. It will keep the sun out of your eyes and lower the risk of sunstroke. You should always apply high factor sunscreen (preferably 30+ SPF). The higher the better, if you've got fair skin.

It is a vital safeguard against harsh UV rays and prevents burning which, as we know, increases the risk of skin cancer.

Pick a Cool Time of Day

The power of the sun is strongest between 12-3pm. So, if you have the freedom to choose, avoid playing sport or exercising outdoors between these hours. If you can't resist a midday kickabout or HIIT session, lather on the SPF sunscreen, wear a hat whenever possible and return to the shade at every opportunity. Morning hours are coolest. If the weather is extremely hot and you have the option to play earlier, take it.

Morning workouts can be very energising and inspiring. Check the weather forecast and plan your activity sessions around predicted temperatures.

Replenish Your Electrolytes

Electrolytes consist of essential minerals like sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. During intense exercise, sodium and potassium leave the body fastest via sweat. The best way to replace them is to eat nutrient rich foods soon after completing vigorous activities. You could pick up an electrolyte filled sports drink, but the bad news is these products tend to be rich in sugar.

Instead of reaching for a sugary drink, try snacking on bananas, carrot sticks, watermelon, oranges, strawberries or cucumbers.

Monitor Young Children

Young children and toddlers are especially vulnerable in the heat. If you are outside coaching, supervising or playing with youngsters, you have a responsibility to keep them safe. Monitor their behaviour closely to ensure dehydration does not set in and lead to sickness. Children must wear high factor sunscreen at all times and, whenever possible, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses with a British Standard certified CE label.

Make sure children have access to plenty of fresh water and encourage them to regular breaks in the shade.

For more advice on physical activity, sports and staying active in all types of weather, follow us @AmavenHealth.