How to exercise when it’s humid
Anyone who’s gone for a jog on a hot, muggy day knows how miserable it can be not only because your shirt is stuck to your back, experts say, but also because the humidity makes exercise that much more challenging.
That’s because the sweat on your skin doesn’t evaporate easily, said JohnEric Smith, an associate professor of exercise physiology at Mississippi State University. Sweat itself doesn’t cool you down, he said, but rather the evaporation of sweat. When the air is already thick with water vapor, however, the moisture on our skin can’t go anywhere, he said.
As a result, humid air makes it more difficult for the body to cool down. This can put stress on the cardiovascular system, reducing blood flow to the muscles and tiring us out more quickly than in drier climates. While there isn’t a lot of independent research into how humidity affects the body, small studies on the subject have consistently found that athletes begin to tire more quickly once the relative humidity reaches around 60 percent.
But that doesn’t mean you have to move all of your workouts indoors if you live in an area that feels like a sauna from June to September. Here are four things you can do to stay cooler in the sticky summer months ahead.
Give your body a couple of weeks to adjust.
The more you exercise in both heat and humidity, the more your body will adapt and improve its ability to cool down, Dr. Smith said. (The same is true, only in reverse, for cold weather.) But since exercise in hot, humid weather is more taxing on the body than doing it in drier conditions, it’s crucial that you give yourself time to adjust in order to prevent cold weather. overheating and exhaustion. .
In a few days, your body will start sweating more and sooner, which will help it regulate its temperature, Dr. Smith said. You’ll also start to see an increase in blood volume, which benefits your heart and circulation.
You get big changes within the first few days of exposure, she said, but it generally takes about two weeks to adjust well.
When the weather turns humid, Dr. Smith recommends doing shorter, gentler workouts that slowly build in duration and intensity over two to three weeks, until you’re back to your previous workout routine. If you typically run six miles at a 10-minute pace, scale back to three miles at a 12-minute pace, and add speed and mileage as the humidity starts to feel less oppressive.
Keep your skin cool.
Because humidity can raise body temperature more than dry heat, it’s much more important to keep cool while exercising, said Ahmad Munir Che Muhamed, an associate professor of exercise physiology at the Malaysia University of Sciences who studies the influence of heat and humidity on athletic performance.
Keep as much skin as possible exposed to the air during your workout, making it easier for sweat to evaporate. (Be sure to wear sunscreen to prevent sun damage.) You should also avoid wearing clothing made of cotton, she said, which traps moisture, creating a layer of insulation around your body. Instead, wear clothes described as quick-drying or breathable.
Drying your skin with a towel or wiping your sweat with a wet shirt may make you more comfortable right now, but it actually stops the evaporation process, as it pulls moisture away from your skin, Dr. Smith said. It might be best to let the sweat run off, as long as it doesn’t get in your eyes.
And if you exercise in one spot—say, playing tennis or having an outdoor boot camp—mist yourself with cold water at regular intervals and blow dry with a portable fan, recommended Dr. Amy Beacom, a sports medicine physician from California. based at the Mayo Clinic. If you’re running, do it after a workout for quick relief.
Hydrate, but don’t overdo it.
Humid air can lead to dehydration. The less your sweat evaporates, the hotter you get and the more you sweat, which depletes vital fluids and electrolytes like sodium and potassium, said Ronald Maughan, visiting professor of exercise science at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Make sure you hydrate before you exercise, so you don’t go into a workout dehydrated. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking two to three cups of water a few hours before exercising.
Once you get moving, the Mayo Clinic recommends sipping fluids the entire time, but eventually drinking until thirsty to avoid overhydration, which can dilute sodium in your blood and damage your kidneys.
Think about when and where to train.
Humidity is highest in the morning in most places, before the sun dries up the moisture in the atmosphere. Start regularly checking the humidity level in your area at various times of the day and plan your workouts accordingly. Dr Smith recommends The Weather Channels app.
And when you can, choose a shady spot or path to exercise, Dr. Maughan said. The intensity of the sun and even the wind affect how you feel outdoors, he said. All of these different factors interact.