The heat is on: Advice to remaining healthy and hydrated this summer

Kim Farmer, health, American Heart Association

By the American Heart Association

TAMPA BAY — Summer has arrived. It’s the season for family vacations and picnics. Yet extreme temperatures can make some Tampa Bay residents want to retreat indoors until October. The American Heart Association and local wellness instructor Kim Farmer have tips to keep you moving and eating healthy through these dog days.

Hydration is fundamental to your health. According to the American Heart Association, staying hydrated allows our muscles to function more effectively. It also lets the heart efficiently pump blood through blood vessels to the muscles.

“People should make hydration a habit,” said Farmer, owner of Mile High Fitness and Wellness, Inc. “We can do that by making sure we have water accessible throughout the day, whether we’re at work, home or school.”

Farmer – who moved to Tampa in January 2018 and has clients across the U.S. – suggests people measure their water intake, which can help instill a healthy habit. They can use a 64-ounce bottle and drink half the amount in the bottle each day or drink two eight-ounce glasses of water with each meal.

Fitness enthusiasts need to consume additional water to replenish liquids released when working out.

“It’s natural to reach for water when you’re exercising because you tend to sweat more, so your body needs to replace that fluid,” Farmer attests. “You are going to have to replace that fluid and be very intentional about doing that before, during and after exercise. The saying that if you feel thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated is true.”

One way to gauge whether your body requires additional water is by checking the color of your urine. The American Heart Association states that pale and clear indicates proper hydration, while a darker stream signifies you should drink more water.

The foods we eat during hotter months also impact our health. Farmer recommends avoiding foods with high trans fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates. These types of food include cakes, most breads and crackers.

In-season fruits and vegetables such as apricot, bell peppers, blackberries, blueberries, cucumbers and eggplant are heart-healthy options that give the body vital nutrients as well as hydration.

While fresh produce is ideal, frozen produce — without added salt and sugars or heavy syrup — also provides nutritional benefits. Use frozen strawberries or peaches to make treats the whole family can enjoy such as fruit pops and low-fat smoothies or add frozen carrots and green beans together with lemon juice and olive oil for a tasty summer salad.

Aside from keeping hydrated and eating healthful fare, it’s important to remain physically active, even as the mercury rises. Medical experts recommend people avoid exercising outdoors mid-day when the sun’s rays are their brightest. Instead, engage in outdoor activities in the morning or early evening, or move your activity indoors.

Your house can serve as your own personal gym this time of year.

“Stairs are a great way to get exercise. You can run up and down stairs or do pushups or tricep dips on them,” Farmer explained. Other exercises to do inside include pushups, sit-ups or planks, all of which improve the abdominal muscles.

Summer isn’t summer without swimming, especially in sunny Florida. The American Heart Association cites the many benefits of swimming, including stress reduction, weight control and decreased blood pressure. A swimming pool additionally provides an ideal setting for water exercises that burn calories and increase body strength.

In her job, Farmer teaches an “Aqua Zumba” class, which builds muscles in a creative, but low-impact, manner.

“People love that because you’re in the water,” she declared. “There are arm movements and leg movements. You’re dancing. It’s choreographed, and you’re using pretty much every part of your body.”

For those who want to brave the heat to exercise, Farmer recommends these individuals slowly get accustomed to outdoor summer exercise.

“If you want to get better at playing basketball, then you practice playing basketball. If you want to get better at exercising in the heat, then you practice exercising in the heat because it’s a completely different condition than exercising in nice cool weather.”

This process, called “acclimatization,” can take up to two weeks, states the American Heart Association. People who want to work out outdoors in the summer should also be aware of the signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion leading to headaches, nausea and vomiting along with other physical complications.

Kim Farmer, AHA

Kim Farmer, AHA

“It’s important to get outside even in the summer, and why not exercise while you’re out there? It’s a matter of taking care of yourself and making sure you’ve got something on your head, you’re hydrated and are wearing sunscreen,” Farmer acknowledged. “Once you have those things in place, you can build up your tolerance for exercising in the heat. Eventually, your body will become more used to it, and you’ll be able to stay out there longer. “

The American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good™ initiative provides tips on exercising and healthy eating in the summer and throughout the year. Learn more at www.heart.org/MoveMore.

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