Staying active in summertime heat

Summertime can be a great time to find new activities to add to your exercise routine. However, higher temperatures can also create new concerns, especially for patients with a diagnosis of heart failure. But the heat doesn’t have to mean you can’t exercise. Described below are tips for exercising in the heat to help you take full advantage of summertime fun. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

  • Listen to your body. Increased heat means that your muscles work harder to move, which puts more stress on your heart. If your heart rate feels irregular or you stop sweating, stop exercising and go inside immediately to cool down. Other warning signs include a headache, muscle cramps, dizziness, weakness, nausea or vomiting, or confusion The National Institute of Aging has more information how to be safe in hot weather.
  • Make a schedule and stick to it. The CONNECT-HF activity tracker is a great way to log your workouts and include notes about how you felt during the exercise. This is a useful tool to share with your doctor to help you find the best summer exercise plan for you.
  • Exercise early. Early morning hours are the best time to avoid summertime heat and humidity. It is also the time of day when air quality is at its best. Your local news will alert you when air quality is too low for exercise, or you can check the AirNow.gov website. Lower impact exercise, such as a walk, can be done in the evening, but humidity is often higher after the sun goes down.
  • Wear light, loose fitting clothing. Dark color or tight fitting can increase your body temperature, even performance exercise clothing designed to wick away moisture. You might also want to avoid cotton as it can retain sweat and get heavier as you exercise.
  • Jump in the pool. If your neighborhood or community has an outdoor pool, swimming can be a fun way to get active and stay cool. Many local pools have dedicated lap swim times, and swimming is an excellent way for heart patients to build muscle strength and heart stamina.
  • Explore yoga and tai-chi. Strength and flexibility are very important for overall physical health, and yoga and tai-chi can be a gentle way to increase your strength and flexibility without getting your heart rate up. Many hotels offer yoga on the beach or in a courtyard to help you stay active even while traveling.
  • Stay hydrated. It is important to drink water both before and after your workout, and if you are going on a long walk or run, carry a water bottle with you, too. Freezing the bottle ahead of time means you’ll have an instant cool pack with you and can enjoy cold water during your workout.
  • Stay inside if you are more comfortable. If it’s too hot to be outside, there are many exercises you can do inside your home, at a local gym, or at a mall. Many malls offer walking groups. Check out this information on the benefits of mall walking from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Another exercise well suited for indoors are chair exercises. The Internet offers a number of videos on chair exercises that can be easily performed anywhere.