The Best Exercises for When It’s Too Hot to Move

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July 7, 2022

When the sun is beating down, going for a run might be the furthest thing from your mind. But sweat-inducing weather shouldn’t stand in the way of your fitness goals. Here’s how to keep up with your daily exercise when it feels too hot to move.

Outdoor Workouts for Summer Days

Even in the blazing heat, it can be hard to resist the call of the outdoors. If you prefer the great outdoors for your daily calorie burn, try one of these approaches.

Walk, don’t run.

Hot days aren’t the time to push your body to its brink. Even if you love to run, walking workouts may be a better choice at the height of summer.

Yes, running burns more calories than walking. But you’ll burn more calories walking than sitting on your couch.

If you simply can’t forgo running entirely, incorporate some intervals into your walk. Let yourself sprint short distances and then walk for a stretch to let your body recover.

When possible, opt for trail hikes through wooded areas. The trees will provide a measure of shade that neighborhood sidewalks and city streets can’t match.

Hop on a bike.

If feeling the breeze on your face sounds like the perfect thing on a hot summer’s day, then turn to cycling for your daily exercise.

As with any exercise, your body will produce heat as you exert yourself. During cycling, though, you have an advantage. The wind whipping by can help to pull away some of that excess heat. The breeze may also speed up sweat evaporation.

Note that on an extremely hot day, asphalt riding surfaces can become soft and pliable. Take your time when turning to make sure you don’t lose traction.

Take a dip.

If you have access to a pool, use it! Cool pool water will keep your body at a comfortable temperature even as the sun beats down. Plus, the water provides resistance, which is great for toning your muscles.

Swimming laps is one way to get your workout in. Water aerobics routines are another. You can even get your steps in by walking the perimeter of the shallow end. Don’t forget about games like pool basketball and volleyball.

No pool? No problem. Natural bodies of water can be a great alternative. Put on water shoes and walk along a shallow creek, or try stand-up paddleboarding at your local lake.

If you have a front or backyard, channel your inner child with a lawn sprinkler. Challenge yourself to jump over the spray, duck under it and run right through it. This is a fitness activity that the whole family can enjoy.

Safety Tips for Hot-weather Exercise

No matter what type of outdoor exercise you choose, make safety your top priority. The following tips can help you exercise outdoors without overdoing it:

  • Choose the right time of day. Avoid times when the sun is straight overhead. Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Hydrate. Plan ahead by drinking several cups of water at least 60 minutes before your workout. As you exercise, take three or four water breaks every hour. For workouts over an hour, replace some of your water with an electrolyte sports drink. (Tip: there are brands and varieties without artificial colors and flavors.)
  • Use sunscreen. You’re going to sweat more when it’s hot out, of course, so make sure you select a waterproof variety of sunblock to protect your skin. Reapply according to the bottle’s instructions, too, which may be more often than usual if you’re sweating a lot.
  • Dress right. Choose loose, lightweight clothing. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Take it easy. Hot days aren’t the time to push yourself to the max. Take your normal intensity down a notch, or reduce your workout length.
  • Pay attention to your body. Muscle cramps, nausea and dizziness are signs that the heat is getting to you. Go inside, hydrate and apply cool cloths to your body. Head to the emergency room if your condition hasn’t improved after 20 minutes.

Indoor Exercise Alternatives

Sure, it’s summer, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment outdoors. And sometimes, it’s just safer to wait out excessive heat in the comfort of your home. On indoor days, try these exercise ideas.

Challenge yourself to a HIIT workout.

HIIT stands for “high-intensity interval training.” The idea is that you alternate short bursts of intense exercise with rest periods. Think 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off.

HIIT routines don’t necessarily require fancy equipment. In fact, you can get by with a timer as your only supply. No-equipment HIIT exercises include squats, lunges, crunches and push-ups.

You don’t have to make up a HIIT routine from scratch, either. You’ll find plenty of free videos online if you want a fitness pro to guide you through the process.

Build strength.

Indoor workout days are a good time to focus on strength training. Cardio exercise is valuable, but weight training should play a key role in your fitness routines, too. Strength-building exercises increase muscle, trim your body and improve your energy level.

A home gym weight machine is a hefty investment that requires a large storage footprint. If that’s not in the cards, there are low-cost options you can try instead.

Start with a totally free approach: making the most of your body weight. During exercises like planks and sit-ups, the resistance provided by your own body mass will help strengthen your muscles.

If there’s wiggle room in your budget for some equipment, think about purchasing small items like hand weights or resistance bands. Kettlebells and medicine balls are other fun additions.

Get out of the house.

This might seem like contradictory advice, but if your house isn’t air-conditioned, then working out indoors may present similar risks to exercising outdoors. Fortunately, your community may offer a variety of other locations where you can safely stretch your legs.

Head to an indoor shopping mall to walk laps. Trek up and down the stairs of a multistory public building, such as the library. Go to a local gym to shoot baskets or ride an exercise bike. Even if you don’t have a gym membership, some facilities will let you pay for one-day access. You might also try bumming an indoor workout space from a friend or neighbor if they have AC. 

Bottom line? Get creative with your workouts.

When to Choose Indoor Fitness

Some days are made for staying indoors. These guidelines can help you identify those days:

  • Avoid thunderstorms. You can go for a jog in the rain, but lightning is a no-go. If there are storms in the area, stay inside.
  • Check the temp. When the mercury rises, indoor exercise just makes sense. Keep in mind that you might be especially sensitive to high temperatures if you’re pregnant, older or have an underlying health condition. Young children may have trouble with temperature regulation, too.
  • Consider humidity. High humidity can make warm days feel even hotter. Heat index is a measurement that accounts for both temperature and humidity levels. Be cautious with outdoor exercise when the heat index is 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above. When the heat index hits 105 degrees, forgo all outdoor physical activity. If you’re pregnant or otherwise sensitive to heat, avoid heat indexes of 90 degrees or higher.

Warm-weather fitness requires precautions and creativity, but there are smart ways to keep up with your movement goals all summer long.

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