I was washing my truck last week when we had an excessive heat warning in effect. Even though I was washing in the early morning and in the shade, I was still dripping wet with sweat. It reminded me of my first paid job working on a farm when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I remember the hot days back then and the reality that the job still needed to get done. Even on hot days. To some extent, those days of working on the farm still motivate me today when working.
Summer on Delmarva is hot and humid but that shouldn’t keep us from enjoying our favorite exercise, jobs or physical activities outside. We just need to be smart and use common sense. Our body is designed to be a great machine; a machine that can regulate its inner temperature. Our body temperature at rest is about 97 degrees Fahrenheit. When we become physically active, our body temperature increases. Most of us release sweat to help cool the body. I like to sweat (as long as I don’t have to wear dress clothes). By the way, did I mention that I took a break from washing my truck to drink a big glass of water and I tried to hug my wife and was turned down? I guess not everyone likes sweat.
Why and how does the body sweat? According the American Council on Exercise (ACE), our muscles store the carbohydrates we consume as glycogen (which is used for energy). One molecule (smallest unit of a chemical compound) of glycogen can hold three to four molecules of water. When we become physically active and need energy, our body converts glycogen to ATP (adenosine triphosphate). As glycogen is used for energy it releases the water it holds. The water moves towards the surface of the skin bringing body heat with it and helping to cool us. Let’s face it, sweating is very cool.
Here’s a few common sense ways to stay cool this summer while exercising:
Air conditioning: When it’s really hot, I get on the treadmill in the air condition to do my endurance exercise. If it’s a hot day with a good breeze, I may walk outside.
Exercise in the early morning: The sun hasn’t heated everything up yet and it’s a good time to be outside. Be careful in the evenings because the asphalt and concrete can give off the day’s heat making your exercise warmer than you expected.
Wear moisture wicking tops: I love the dry technology shirts are made with now. These shirts help to remove the water from your skin when you sweat and that helps to keep you cooler.
Cold towels: Most people are not going to sit in an ice bath after exercise (a lot of athletes now use ice baths to cool down, reduce inflammation and help their muscles recover). Instead, keep a couple of small towels in your freezer and put them on your neck or wrists when you need to cool down.
Enjoy the summer heat and here’s to your sweaty body keeping you cool.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the August 4, 2016 edition of the Seaford Star.