Note: The following item was provided by Atrium Health Floyd, a Polk Today sponsor. It was authored by Polk Medical Center Hospital Administrator Tifani Kinard. -KtE

We all know those athletes. We see them in the summer running in the afternoon, sweating profusely and we are amazed they can still perform under such stress.

During the hottest days in Georgia it can be risky exercising outside in the heat of the day. But there are also ways you can prepare for the heat if you want to keep moving.

If you plan on being outside and active during the summer, one thing you should work on is getting acclimatized to the heat. That means building up a heat tolerance so your body can handle it.

You should start now instead of waiting for April to turn into May and then June.

Heat tolerance is created by increasing how long and how hard you work in hot conditions. It is best to do this gradually starting with the less brutal conditions of a warm April day instead of deciding you are going to try to run three miles in July. And just a word of warning, if you don’t keep exercising regularly in the heat, you will likely have to start from scratch if you take a couple weeks off.

Here is how to do it right:

⦁ Gradually increase time in hot conditions over a week or two. Make sure you cool off between workouts
⦁ Don’t push yourself too hard. Heat exhaustion won’t help your heat tolerance.
⦁ Dehydration reduces the benefits of heat acclimatization. Drink plenty of water.
⦁ Eat! Food help replace electrolytes that you lose when you sweat.

Acclimatization is how your body adapts when exercising in an extreme environment.

That acclimatization results in:

⦁ Better sweating efficiency. That’s right, your body learns to sweat more efficiently and earlier, helping to keep you from overheating. Your body also learns to reduce the loss of electrolytes, which will help you from cramping.
⦁ More stable circulation.
⦁ Maintaining a lower core temperature and heart rate.

If you do feel the need to exercise in the heat, there are ways you can do it safely.

Most people who have lived in the Southeast already know many of the ways to keep what little cool you have once hot weather hits.

⦁ Dress like you know it is hot. Wear light, loose-fitting clothes, which will allow the air to circulate better around your body, keeping you cooler as your sweat evaporates. Try to avoid dark clothing, which absorbs heat.
⦁ Drink plenty of water. In moderation sports drinks can be good because they can help your body replace electrolytes lost through sweat.
⦁ Don’t forget the sunscreen. A sunburn cuts down on your skin’s ability to keep you cool and also makes skin cancer more likely.
⦁ Talk to your doctor about your overall health. Some medicines can lessen your body’s ability to keep you cool in hot weather.

You should be aware of common warning signs that could indicate you are on the verge of a heat-related illness:

⦁ Sudden fatigue
⦁ Dizziness or lightheadedness
⦁ Muscle cramps
⦁ Nausea or vomiting
⦁ Headache
⦁ Confusion
⦁ Irritability
⦁ Low blood pressure
⦁ Increased heart rate
⦁ Visual problems

There are some dangerous conditions that can result if you push your body past its limits.

Heat cramps are marked by painful muscle contractions. Your muscles and they may be hard to the touch. Heat cramps can occur even when your body temperature is normal.

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body temperature rises too high. It can be marked by nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, fainting, sweating and cold, clammy skin.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that happens when your body temperature is greater than 104 degrees.

If you experience any of the above, get out of the heat. Get something cool to drink. If possible get in a pool or under a cold shower.

About Atrium Health Floyd

Since 1942, Floyd, now Atrium Health Floyd, has worked to provide affordable, accessible care in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. Today, Atrium Health Floyd is a leading medical provider and economic force. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care.

At the hub of these services is Floyd Medical Center, a 304-bed full-service, acute care hospital and regional referral center.

Atrium Health Floyd employs more than 3,400 teammates who provide care in over 40 medical specialties at three hospitals: Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia; Floyd Cherokee Medical Center in Centre, Alabama; Floyd Polk Medical Center in Cedartown, Georgia, as well as Floyd Behavioral Health Center, a freestanding 53-bed behavioral health facility, also in Rome; and a primary care and urgent care network with locations throughout the service area of northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.

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