You’ve probably noticed — It’s hot. And humid. According to Climate Central, Denver has warmed 2.3 degrees over the last 100 years. This may not seem like a lot, but to the human body, a bit of extra heat can make a big difference.
Many of us associate summer with a sunshiny ‘good’ mood. Sunshine stimulates vitamin D production which plays an important role in mood regulation. But heat can wear us down over time. Hot weather, especially the muggy kind, may also reduce our attention and energy levels. One study, published in The British Journal of Psychology, found that high humidity lowered concentration and increased sleepiness. Hot weather also hurts the ability to think critically. A 2018 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change analyzed more than 600 million tweets and found that people were more likely to express depressive feelings as temperatures rose.
So while the longer days and warmer temperatures provide more opportunities to get outside and get active, and we humans need that sunshine, it is more important than ever to listen to your body and make sure that you are doing things to mitigate the effects of increasing temperatures.
- Hydrate: Don’t wait until you are thirsty! Staying hydrated all the time is the best way to be sure your body has the water it needs when it needs it. Drink water first thing when you wake up daily and aim for at least a drink every hour. If you are going out, be sure you’ve planned for about 8oz for each person in your party (including pets!) for each hour you’re out. And, NO! Coffee, soda, and alcohol do not count.
- Dress well: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen. One product we see advertised: cooling towels. According to Consumer Reports the least expensive available works just as well as the most expensive and a plain old kitchen towel works as well as either. Unless it’s humid. In which case – head for air conditioning.
- Listen to your body: If you are headed outside; take frequent breaks in the shade, and – -I know I’m repeating myself here but it’s the biggest factor in hot weather activity success — Drink water before you’re thirsty. Allow yourself time to adapt to the heat. Many folks may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual. That is okay! Our bodies are built on cycles, and for many, summer is a great time to slow down. Maybe even smell the roses.
- Take it indoors: Embrace your inner mall walker. Check out one of the low cost gym options like Planet Fitness or one of Denver’s great rec centers. Pop on one of the virtual workouts you downloaded during quarantine or email me and I’ll send you one of my favorites. And if you are able, adjust your workout schedule to early morning or late evening when it’s cooler.
- Know the danger signs: Cramps, fatigue, and thirst are signs of heat illness and might be mitigated with hydration. However, if you experience signs of heat exhaustion – -Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, weakness, cool or clammy skin, dark urine and nausea or vomiting — Stop exercising right away. Sip water. Move to the shade or indoors. Douse yourself with cold water. Apply a cold, wet cloth to pulse points and get medical attention if your condition doesn’t improve or gets worse.
Yes, it’s hot, and it makes a difference to us humans. So, as always, give yourself grace. And remember that one of the best things about living in Colorado is the change of seasons. And one of the best things about being human is that our bodies can thrive in each of those seasons with just a little help from our brains.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.