It is summer once again in Minnesota and that means cabin trips, beach adventures, and spending as much time as possible outside before winter comes knocking at our door again. If you are planning on spending a lot of quality time outdoors then there is probably a good chance the must-have item is a water bottle. Most people don’t drink enough water on a regular basis and the warm summer weather does not do us any favors, especially when we are trying to make the most of it. For this reason, there are a few tips to help make sure you are aware of your hydration and make the most of your time in the sun:
- Water Loss: It is inevitable that through all our time in the sun we will probably sweat a little and lose some water during the course of the summer months. When your mouth is dry and you are feeling like getting some water due that thirsty feeling we all know, you are already dehydrated. The thirst response is a dehydration signal to your body that you need more water in your system. Drinking water casually throughout the day works best to optimize your body’s functions to replace the water you’ve exhausted. If you’re trying to be active outdoors for the summer 5K or any competition, your hydration can change quickly. Since your muscles are made mostly of water, a loss of 1-3% of your body’s water (200lbs = 2-6lbs) translates to a decrease of about 10% in performance. Make sure to weigh yourself pre and post workout or competition when outside to know how many pounds of water you lost – this will tell you how much you need to drink to rehydrate properly. Furthermore, constant dehydration causes your spine to suffer the most. Your spine gets its nutrients and hydration through a process called remote diffusion, meaning it is the last stop to get those nutrients and fluids it needs. If your water intake is less than optimal over time your spine will take the hit.
- Humidity 101: One of the first things you’ll complain about or be concerned with the warm summer weather is the humidity. Humidity is the relative moisture in the air and we all “feel” it when it increases. When the humidity is higher we feel like we are sweating more than usual, but in reality, you are not. The air simply cannot absorb more moisture or water as easily. That being said, this will allow you to realize how much you normally sweat and give you some perspective on the amount of perspiring we do, humidity or not.
- Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke: If you’re exposed to the elements too long in the summer heat, your body will not respond kindly. Heat-related health issues are a very real threat if you’re outside for long periods of time, even if you have access to an unlimited supply of cold water and sunscreen. Your body will start with heat cramps due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances in the smaller muscles, such as the calf. This will then transition to heat exhaustion which is similar to your body going into shock with symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, or a weak-rapid pulse. Worst case scenario is heat stroke where your body’s core temperature rises to a high temperature and is not able to cool down effectively. In this situation, you want to cool the person down as much as possible by getting them out of the heat and sun immediately. It is often needed to call emergency services when a person reaches this level but there are a few populations that are at a higher risk for these conditions than others. Children and older adults are highly susceptible to heat-related conditions as well as overweight or large adults due to the higher amount of skin being exposed to the sun.
-Zach Dykes, Exercise Specialist