Primary Schools

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

Young Boy in a Blue Bike Helmet Drinking from a Water Bottle

One of the best ways for children to enjoy warm, sunny days is with physical activities. However, it's important to remember playing sports or moving vigorously in hot weather comes with an increased risk of dehydration and heatstroke. Exposure to intense sunshine can put a strain on the body, particularly during vigorous physical exertion.

Even if they stick to the shade, it's still important for kids to drink plenty of water. They should stop immediately and take a break if they start to feel dizzy or get a headache.

Here's some advice on helping children stay active and safe in the heat:

Drink Plenty of Water

The human body loses fluids much faster during physical activity and sports. Ensure children stay hydrated by encouraging them to drink plenty of water throughout the day. It's a good idea to drink before, during and after a sports or activity session. Dehydration is easy to treat, but its symptoms can worsen quickly.

Top Tip: Children should stop playing immediately and retreat to a cool, shady location if dizziness is persistent, it becomes hard to pee, or they begin to feel extremely lethargic.

Take Regular Breaks

It is safe to stay active in hot conditions as long as a child listens to their body and acknowledge signs it's time to stop. If their 'performance' is significantly worse than usual, ask yourself if the heat is having a detrimental effect. Consider the potential consequences of trying to achieve usual levels of intensity. It's normal to take extra breaks and/or dial down the intensity when heat is a complicating factor!

Top Tip: Where possible, enjoy physical activities in shady conditions. Children should drink water every time they rest. Don't forget intense weather is no time to prioritise winning above personal safety!

Protect Your Skin

When active outdoors, children must protect their skin from the sun. Ideally, they should wear a protective sun hat. It keeps sun away from the eyes and lowers the risk of sunstroke. However, it may not be possible when playing vigorous sports. Always apply high factor sunscreen (30+SPF) The higher the better, particularly for young people. 

Top Tip: Sunscreen is a vital safeguard against harsh UV rays. It prevents the skin from 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 midday and 3pm. If they have the freedom to choose, children should avoid playing sports or moving vigorously between these hours. If they can't resist a midday kickabout or cricket session, ensure they lather on plenty of SPF sunscreen, wear a hat when possible and take regular rests in the shade. Morning hours are coolest. If the weather is extremely hot and you have the option to play sports earlier, take it.

Top Tip: Physical activity in the morning can be 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 vigorous activities. A popular option is electrolyte filled sports drinks. However, these products tend to be very sugary and, therefore, unsuitable for children. 

Top Tip: Instead of reaching for a sugary sports drink, try snacking on juicy bananas, watermelon, oranges, strawberries or cucumbers.

Monitor Young Children

The youngest children (toddlers especially) are extra vulnerable in the heat. If you are outside teaching, supervising or playing sports with youngsters, you have a responsibility to keep them safe. Monitor their behaviour closely to ensure dehydration does not set in and lead to heatstroke. Children must wear high factor sunscreen at all times and, where possible, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. 

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

If your Wellness Kickstart Day is approaching, don't be afraid to tell us what you want!  When conditions allow, our coaches can move physical activities outdoors, provide extra hydration breaks and offer pupils advice on staying safe in the sun. 

Book a Wellness Kickstart Day to get our Healthy Schools Programme for FREE for eight weeks.

Click here to find out what schools get from this launch event