In Israel, Europe and the United States it’s been unusually hot this summer.  Whether it’s the clients I see in my office or the people I speak to abroad, when I ask how their exercise has been going I keep getting the same answer:  “Everything is fine but I haven’t been walking nearly as much as I am supposed to—it just too hot!”  And that statement is true.  However, it is possible to exercise during the summer and even do it outdoors.  Chaya and Zalman are two clients who recently had this problem, but we found solutions for them.

Hydration

Like any type of workout, indoors or out, it is important to make the proper preparations before you start.  First and foremost, make sure you are hydrated properlyExercise performance decreases with just a 1 percent loss of body fluid. Going into a workout dehydrated decreases the time until you reach exhaustion and inhibits performance. As the percent of water loss increases, the severity of symptoms increases and time to exhaustion decreases. Water is necessary for a number of bodily functions, including the regulation of your temperature.  Make it a point to stay hydrated before you head out for your next training bout. In addition to the 8-10 cups of water per day we should all be drinking, one should drink 2 cups of water within an hour before exercising. Consume 4-8 ounces of fluid (more or less 110-220 ml) every 10-15 minutes during the workout, and consume 2 cups of fluid for every .5 kilogram lost during exercise at the conclusion of the workout.  Although we recommend water as the best beverage to use, herbal teas and diluted juices can also be used occasionally.

Good for Walking

Scientists have already concluded in countless studies, that, exercise is essential for good health and disease prevention. The simple act of walking, if done properly and regularly, can be beneficial in many ways.  Brisk walking can help to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer and depression. It is an essential ingredient for both weight control and weight loss.

How often should you walk and at what pace?  The answer to this question depends upon your personal goal.  For instance, if weight loss is your goal, then you should count on walking every day.  If cardio-vascular fitness is what you are looking for, then every other day (4 times a week) may be enough for you.  Obviously, the longer and faster you can go, the more beneficial it will be. Be careful that you don’t overdo it!  People that have been sedentary must start slowly and build up gradually.  It is essential that before you begin a walking program, you visit your doctor first for a complete medical evaluation. Once you have the approval of your physician, you can begin.

Start at a comfortable pace; walk as though you are slightly late for an appointment.  Use the “talk test.”  If you can’t say your name three times in a row, you are pushing too hard.  You should aim for a minimum of 3.5 miles per hour.  For those of you who may want to work up to a power walk, you will want to eventually reach 4.5 mph or more.  The recommended minimum time for walking is 30-40 minutes, however if you are a beginner, start off slowly and build up to that amount.

Maintain good posture while you are walking and look straight ahead.  Swinging your arms will increase your caloric burn greatly. Make sure your arms are moving in a forward direction and not crossing in front of you.  A good sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential, and should be replaced every 400-500 miles of walking.  If you don’t have proper shoes or your shoes are worn out, you probably will suffer some type of injury in the lower extremities.

Go out with a friend or exercise partner.  You are more likely to stick to your schedule as that gives you accountability and you might find your time outdoors more enjoyable.

Vitamin D Benefits

One of the great benefits of outdoor exercising in the summer is that sunshine is the primary source of vitamin D.  Even in the more northern latitudes, where in the winter vitamin D is impossible to get from the sun, in the summer it is abundant.

In recent years, numerous studies have shown that adequate amounts of vitamin D in the body prevents many cancers, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, asthma in children and diabetes. The latest research seems to connect low levels of vitamin D with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Research in the area of vitamin D is ongoing. The findings seem very promising as a tool in the prevention of numerous ailments and diseases. In addition to immune system diseases like MS, vitamin D seems to help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, the flu and perhaps mental illnesses. So it seems that a little sunshine can go a long, long way.  20 minutes per day without sunscreen 4 days a week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon should do the trick. More than 20 minutes in the peak heat of the day is not advised.  Don’t overdo it with sun exposure, it can be dangerous, but on the other hand, make sure you are getting enough.

The Best Reason of All

A February 2011 study comparing outdoor workouts to indoor workouts showed an improvement in mental well-being. Exercising outdoors was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and increased energy. It also showed decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.

Caution in the Sun

Because the weather is now warmer, take caution to exercise early in the day or toward the evening hours. Although we need our vitamin D, still drink plenty of water before, after and during your walk. Wear clothing that is lose-fitting, but covers much of your body on sunny days.  Make sure to wear a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun and also to retain water.  Most water escapes through the head.

Chaya, a client here in Israel decided to start her walks very early morning. She was able to tolerate the heat at that hour and was able to put in 40 minutes every morning.  Zalman, my client in Europe, took another course.  He couldn’t put up with the heat for 30 minutes in a row, but he could deal with it for shorter bouts. So Zalman went for walks 3 times a day for 10-12 minutes each time.  With the proper precautions, you can beat the heat and exercise outdoors even in the heat of the summer.

Outdoor workouts are a great way to “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”