Active people should manage their exposure to summer’s heat and sunshine before, during and after they are subject to summer weather, according to a University of Arkansas - Fort Smith fitness expert.
Cory Williams of Fort Smith, UAFS fitness coordinator, who holds a master’s degree in health, wellness and physical education, said knowing how to handle heat can make a difference in a person’s long-term health. He mentioned skin cancer, vision problems from too much sun, and organ damage from dehydration.
“If you don’t pay attention to your body, you can suffer heat exhaustion, which is serious enough. But you can also suffer heat stroke, which is life threatening,” he said. “People should look for the symptoms of overheating, including weakness, cramping, dizziness, and cessation of perspiration.”
Williams said before people go outdoors in the summer heat, they should think about hydration and sun protection.
“Hydration is the first thing to think about,” Williams said. “You should drink 15 to 20 ounces of water about one or two hours before you go outside for work, recreation or exercise.”
Williams said there are some liquids to avoid in the summer’s heat.
“Caffeine and alcohol work against you,” Williams said. “They actually dehydrate you.”
Planning ahead for skin and eye protection is also important.
“Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing,” he said. “Protect your face, lips, ears and head from sun as much as you protect your back, arms and legs.” He urged people to wear protective clothing and sunscreen.
Williams said sunscreen should be used daily by people who are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes. Because the sun's powers are great, people should not reserve the use of these products for only sunny summer days. He said that even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.
“Sunglasses are important, too,” Williams said. “Prolonged exposure to bright sun can cause cataracts, and sunglasses can diminish the harmful effects of harsh sun. A cap with a bill over your eyes helps, too.”
The before, during and after concept applies to sunscreen as well. It should be applied to dry skin 30 minutes before going outdoors and while outside, especially if swimming.
“Put on plenty of sunscreen,” Williams said. “It doesn’t work if you don’t apply enough.” He said everybody is aware of SPF numbers and what they mean, but they’re meaningless if a person skimps on application.
During outside activities, people should drink six ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes, according to Williams.
“Keep your hat on, wear your sunglasses and protect your skin while you’re outside,” Williams said. “Sunscreen labels explain how often a person should reapply sunscreen.”
Williams said that after an intense workout or a long period in the heat, people should remember to drink more liquids. Some people like to drink sports drinks because they think they need to replace electrolytes. He said about six ounces of a sports drink will usually do the job.
“Some sports drinks have lots of sugar in them,” he said. “The added calories tend to reverse the benefit of exercise from a body weight standpoint, and a sugar rush doesn’t give you sustained energy.”
Williams said people should look for labels that show less sugar and fewer calories.
After exposure to sun, the skin should be moisturized with some sort of lotion to minimize the damage from ultraviolet rays.
Excessive exposure to sun and heat pose equal health threats, according to Williams. He said people should be as careful about sunburn and skin cancer when they exercise, work or play in the sun as they are about heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke.
“Your body has to last a lifetime. Be smart. Be safe. Be moderate. Be aware. You know,” he said, “in the summertime, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do your exercise workouts in an air conditioned fitness center.”