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How to Safely Stay Active This Summer

Heat exhaustion is a common occurrence in Phoenix, and heat-related illnesses can happen to just about anyone. Spending too much time in higher temperatures or excessively exercising can trigger heat exhaustion, and it’s important to know when to reach out to your primary care provider or head to the emergency room if you’re experiencing a more life-threatening condition known as heat stroke. Here, Rocky Patel, MD, senior health performance medical director at One Medical in Phoenix, discusses the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how to safely stay active this summer.

Heat exhaustion is when someone starts to feel sick due to loss of water and salt from heat exposure. People may experience symptoms such as heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. Other signs of heat exhaustion include a headache, nausea or a sensation of feeling weak. With heat exhaustion, the body temperature stays below 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

When someone’s body temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, that means their body is overheated and experiencing heat stroke, a serious condition that requires emergency medical attention. Symptoms to look out for with heat stroke include changes in mental or behavioral state including confusion, slurred speech, agitation or seizures, nausea or vomiting, no sweat/dry skin, flushed skin and rapid or shallow breathing. If left untreated, heat stroke can cause significant damage to the brain, heart and kidneys. It’s imperative to seek emergency medical treatment if you are experiencing any of these symptoms as there are no home remedies for heat stroke. A medical professional will help cool your body to a normal temperature with a cold water bath, ice packs, a cooling blanket or an evaporation technique to cool the skin.

To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you can:

  • Stay hydrated to help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature
  • Wear light, loose clothing to allow your body to cool down properly
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat if you are in direct sunlight and lather up the sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30) to avoid sunburns
  • Talk to your primary care provider about any medications you might be taking that may increase your chances of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • Stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day and, if possible, seek an indoor situation with air conditioning
  • Limit strenuous outdoor activity if temperatures are above normal

Exercise is imperative for your mental health and may be a little trickier to navigate during the hotter months but there are still ways to get active. For those who have indoor exercise equipment (treadmill, elliptical, rowing machines, etc.) located in an air conditioned and well-ventilated space, this is the perfect time to stay active daily with these options during the summer heat. For people who don’t have such exercise equipment, the 7-minute workout routine is an easy way to stay active, and only requires a chair to be able to accomplish a clinically-proven, cardiovascular workout indoors. Also, swimming is another great way to stay active while keeping cool.

Some of the best ways to prepare your body for exercising in higher temperatures are to make sure you start with adequate water intake, wear proper clothing (non-constrictive and breathable materials) and listen to your body when you feel that you are at your limit. Start low and slow and build up intensity as you go. Ensure you take enough water breaks and if you start feeling short of breath, lightheaded or dizzy during your workout, that is your signal to stop and consider switching future workouts to an indoor setting.

As you make summer plans, be sure to connect with your primary care provider if you have any preexisting conditions that can trigger heat exhaustion or stroke.

To learn more about One Medical, visit

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