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The hot summer weather is finally settling in and people are heading outdoors for their workouts and enjoying recreational activities with their families. Everyone loves this time of year; there are so many opportunities for physical activity whether it’s a relaxing nature walk or an intense game of soccer. When extreme heat hits though, it’s a good idea to know the right steps to take in order to keep yourself, and others, protected from heat-related injuries.

How does extreme heat affect the body?

Extreme heat combined with humidity affects the body and its attempts to cool itself. When the air is saturated with water vapour, sweat from the body doesn’t evaporate as well. Since the body doesn’t get any cooler, you continue to sweat which can cause the first signs of heat illness:

  • normal or elevated body temperature
  • body rash
  • profuse sweating
  • fast, shallow breathing and/or a fast, weak pulse
  • heat cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • exhaustion, headache, dizziness, weakness, or fainting

What steps can I take to protect myself?

Clothing: Loose, lightweight material allows for better air circulation and facilitates evaporation of sweat. Clothing should be light-coloured and ideally made with a wicking fabric; avoid dark, non-breathing synthetic material.

Nutrition – Daily diet can be easily overlooked when dealing with the heat, but increasing foods that have a high water content can help you stay hydrated. Melons, strawberries and citrus fruits, or vegetables, such as cucumbers, celery, tomatoes and sweet peppers can help you on your way to surviving the heat.

Hydration – Try to stick to water when the heat really turns up. If you are moving at a high intensity for 45 mins or more, a sports drink will help you replenish lost electrolytes but is not recommended for everyday use. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking sodas because they can actually have dehydrating effects.

Time of Day – You can still get your workout in during a heat wave either by moving your training to an indoor air conditioned facility or keeping it outside by scheduling your workouts to avoid the heat of the day. Early morning or evening workouts are great, just make sure that if you’re outdoors at night you wear reflective gear so you’re visible to traffic.

Acclimate – Human bodies can take the cold more than the heat, so give yourself time to adjust. Regular exposure to hot or humid conditions allows the body to adapt and reduces the risk of heat injury.

With the days get longer everyone wants to be active outside and sometimes we get caught up in the enjoyment of those activities and forget to put safety first. When combining heat, humidity and physical exercise, a little extra caution goes a long way to keeping you cool and safe when the temperatures soar.

References from the SIRC Collection:

Adams W, Mazerolle S, Casa D, Huggins R, Burton L. The Secondary School Football Coach’s Relationship With the Athletic Trainer and Perspectives on Exertional Heat Stroke. Journal Of Athletic Training (Allen Press). July 2014;49(4):469-477.

Mazerolle S, Pagnotta K, Casa D, Armstrong L, Maresh C. Professional Preparation Regarding The Recognition And Treatment Of Exertional Heat Stroke: The Student Perspective. Athletic Training Education Journal (National Athletic Trainers’ Association). October 2011;6(4):182-193.


Pyne D, Guy J, Edwards A. Managing Heat and Immune Stress in Athletes With Evidence-Based Strategies. International Journal Of Sports Physiology & Performance. September 2014;9(5):744-750.

Tsukasa I, Naoyuki H. Effects of Heat Stress on Ocular Blood Flow during Exhaustive Exercise. Journal Of Sports Science & Medicine. March 2014;13(1):172-179.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.