by AINSLEY LAWRENCE
The South is a varied geographic and cultural region. Each state is different and plays host to a range of different ecosystems, climates, and natural landscapes.
However, there is one thing that all Southern states have in common: the heat. Death Valley, CA lays claim to the hottest temperature on record, but 8 of the 10 hottest states are located in the South.
Sweltering temperatures make staying active and healthy difficult. You can’t go for a run during your lunch break when temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% humidity. Likewise, a hike in the summer can quickly turn into a trial-by-fire if you don’t plan your route accordingly.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to work up a sweat and get in great shape without risking sunstroke and burns.
Exercising in high temperatures is unsafe and can lead to serious health conditions. Doing so may also exacerbate any existing health issues that you currently face and can lead to conditions like heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion occurs when your body cannot regulate its own temperature due to high heat and humidity. You’re more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion if you are overweight, in poor physical condition, or are taking medications like antihistamines.
Heat exhaustion can make you feel nauseous and cause a drop in blood pressure. Left untreated, this can develop into delirium, agitation, unconsciousness, or a coma.
However, failing to exercise due to the summer heat can be equally dangerous. According to the CDC, failing to exercise regularly can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Choosing to live a sedentary lifestyle also increases your risk of developing cancers of the breast, colon, and uterus.
Avoiding exercise can also cause unwanted weight gain and varicose veins. Between 20-30 million Americans have varicose veins, which form when you sit for extended periods of time. Without constant movement, the pressure on your veins builds up and they become floppy. This causes blood to pool and ropey cord-like veins to bulge from the surface of your skin. As you age, it’s important to find exercises that are not only conducive to your lifestyle and health needs but also suit the environment you live in.
Moving Your Body
If it’s been a while since you laced up your running shoes, you may be worried about working out. This is entirely normal, as many folks are intimidated by the thought of joining the gym or attending an exercise class.
Fortunately, you don’t need to become a CrossFit athlete to live a healthier, happier lifestyle. Start small, and set aside time in the morning or late evening to move your body. Start with simple activities like:
- Walk or jog for a set period of time;
- Complete a “beginners” online yoga class;
- On cooler days, ride a bike to and from work;
- Complete yard work and picnic in the park rather than sitting inside.
Light exercise is a great way to improve your physical fitness and build your confidence. When you’re ready, consider joining a local gym and find a personal trainer who can help you get in shape away from the sun.
In addition, make a few changes to your diet to maximize the health benefits of light exercise. Healthy eating improves the effectiveness of your digestive system and gives you the energy you need to get through more demanding workouts.
Fitness in the Summer
You might be able to exercise outside during the fall, winter, and spring. However, if you work a full-time job, finding time to work out outside during the summer is all but impossible.
But, that doesn’t mean you should skip your workouts altogether. Find a space to work out inside, and consider branching out into a new area of health fitness. Work with a personal trainer or instructor who can help you get into workout regimes like:
- Spin: Classes can be modified to your current fitness level and are a great way to meet other folks who love cycling and want to beat the heat.
- Pilates: This exercise is a combination of yoga and strength training. You’ll work through a flow of body weight exercises designed to improve your strength and coordination.
- CrossFit: CrossFit blends weightlifting and cardio to improve your overall health and well-being. Expect to lift heavy weights, run, row, or cycle in short bursts, and complete a few gymnastic movements.
- HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an approach to cardio that will test your limits in a short period of time. Typical workouts last 30 – 60 minutes, but you’ll continue to reap the benefits for 2 hours after the workout ends.
All of these workouts can be completed indoors and are sure to improve your physical health. If you’re new to exercise, speak to the instructor before the class begins so they can adjust your workout and help you avoid injury.
If you’re worried about your current health, book yourself in for essential routine health checkups before you start working out. Get a thorough physical exam from your doctor who can check all your vital signs and ensure you don’t have any underlying conditions. Visit your dentist and optometrist, too, as issues with your teeth and eye health can point toward undiagnosed diseases or illnesses.
Staying active in the South can be a challenge. You have to beat the heat if you want to work up a sweat safely, and should focus on working out indoors during the summer. Use the hotter months as a chance to explore new workout regimes and work with professional trainers to find a program that you love.