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Why You Should Be Training in the Sun & How to Do It Safely

·4-min read
Photo credit: eclipse_images - Getty Images
Photo credit: eclipse_images - Getty Images

As lockdown restrictions continue to slowly and safely lift, more and more of us are taking to the outdoors to get our exercise fix. And who can blame us? After a miserable spring (spent mostly locked indoors), the warmer weather is, mercifully, becoming a permanent fixture. British summertime has arrived, and exercising in the heat is par for the course.

But approach it with caution. While it’s imperative you ‘stay alert’ when outside exercising, there’s something else you have to be aware of: the glare of the sun. Working out under clear skies does have its benefits – research has shown a number of physiological improvements from warm weather exercise – but pushing yourself too hard, and not knowing what your body is trying to tell you, may have a detrimental impact.

“Performance will always suffer proportionally to an increase in temperature,” says strongman and doctor Emil Hodzovic, from Project Goliath. So, next time you plan on exercising in the heat, follow these tips to keep heatstroke on ice.

Exercising in the Heat

Stay Hydrated

“Hydrate above and beyond what you expect you’ll need,” says Hodzovic. “Sweat needs to be replaced and you’ll lose litres an hour, far more than you can absorb by drinking.” He recommends you continue glugging even after you’ve showered, and switching to an electrolyte drink if it’s been a heavy session. “They won’t improve or extend your performance, but may aid recovery.

Know When to Stop

“It’s not wise to start anything new or out of the ordinary when there’s a heatwave,” says Dr Joseph Lightfoot, founder of Results Inc. Training that you’re not used to means your body puts out warning signs you might not recognise. “If you experience lightheadedness, hot or red skin, blurry vision, extreme fatigue, weakness, an excessive heart rate or vomiting, then rest in the shade and rehydrate,” says Hodzovic. This is not the time for #nopainnogain.

Beware of Humidity

When there’s more water in the air, less evaporates from your skin, which impacts your natural cooling systems. “In humid heat, sweat becomes less effective,” says Hodzovic. “So sessions should be adjusted accordingly.” He recommends taking ice packs to your sessions to drop your body temperature quickly. Just steer clear of five-a-side. “Competitive spot isn’t ideal as you’re inclined to push yourself harder.”

5 Benefits of Training in the Sun

Get Your Vitamin D Dose

Even with your summer escape plans grounded, catching rays should still be a priority. According to the British government’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition, around 20% of us fail to hit the recommended daily dose of vitamin D. The good news is that you need just 20 minutes of sun a few times a week to reach your target. It’s an easy – not to mention pleasurable – investment in your long-term health.

You'll Sleep Better

Make a daily habit of seeing the light and you can expect brighter moods. According to NHS researchers, sunlight helps to regulate your levels of the happy hormone serotonin and supports your circadian rhythms, giving you better sleep and a healthier brain. Meanwhile, a separate Australian study found that people bask in higher serotonin levels on sunny days than they do on gloomy or cloudy ones, and that a single day of catching rays can make a difference.

Photo credit: Thomas Barwick - Getty Images
Photo credit: Thomas Barwick - Getty Images

Lower Your Diabetes, Heart Disease and Obesity Risk

The benefits extend to the body, too. Scientists at the University of Alberta claim that a lack of daylight is among the principal reasons why we gain weight in winter. Exposure to the summer sun has been shown to shrink subcutaneous white adipose tissue – the fat responsible for an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In other words, taking your top off is now a science-approved component of your summer body plan.

You'll be Happier

Spending as much time as possible outdoors can make a lasting impact on your overall fitness, as well as on your short-term body goals. Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that exposing mice to sunlight for six weeks boosted their endorphins by 50%, making them happier and more resilient to discomfort. Shift the dumbbells into the garden and you’ll be pushing out extra sets in no time.

But Make Sure You Use Sunscreen

A deficiency in vitamin D is a “predisposing factor” in at least 17 cancers, reports the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa – so it’s well worth taking sunshine seriously. The key is a “little and often” approach: you don’t need us to rake over the well-known risks, but be aware that cases of melanoma are projected to rise by 7% in 15 years. Your best protection is a broad-spectrum sunscreen such as Clarins Sun Care Lotion Spray. Use it wisely.

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