7 Tips for Staying Cool on Hot Weather Walks

Man drinking water after exercise
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If the heat is on outdoors, follow these cool walking tips to make the most of your climate and maintain your walking routine.

1. Choose a COOL time of day. Know your local climate. Dawn is best, although it comes early in June and July. In some areas, a sea breeze begins cooling things down in mid-afternoon. But in many inland areas the temperatures rise until early evening, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and do not cool off until sunset.

Your after-work walk schedule may put you into the hottest time of day.

2. Select a route that includes shade. Avoid direct sun and asphalt or concrete. Natural surface paths under the trees are the cooler places to walk. These are also favored by insects, so choose an insect repellent if they bug you too much, and check for ticks afterwards. You can use the online mapping app to find a walking route - and use the "Satellite View" or "Hybrid View" to see where the trees and shade may be.

3. Drink, drink, drink. Drink a big glass of water (12 to 20 ounces) 60 minutes BEFORE you start your walk. That starts you off well-hydrated but you have a chance to eliminate any extra before you start walking. Then drink a cup of water (6 to 8 ounces) every 20 to 30 minutes along your walk. You can tell if you end up dehydrated after your walk if your pulse rate remains high and your urine is dark yellow.

The latest guideline for walkers and runners is "drink when thirsty," so be sure to carry water along so you can do so as soon as you are thirsty. Avoid drinks with a high sugar concentration, as that can cause nausea. Water is the best drink when walking for up to an hour. If you are walking and sweating for more than an hour, switch after the first hour to a sports drink that replaces electrolytes (body salt).

Drinking Guidelines for Walkers

4. Make your own shade. Wear a hat with a visor or a desert-cap with flaps to shade your neck. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, skin cancer and wrinkles. Wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB to protect your eyes. Wear light colored clothing.
Hot Weather Walking Gear - Top Picks

5. Watch out for heat disease. If you become dizzy, nauseated, have dry skin or the chills, STOP and try to get a drink. If you do not feel better, get medical help immediately. If you are under care for a medical condition, especially heart or respiratory problems or have had heat stroke previously, consult with your health-care provider about walking in the heat.
Signs of Heat Sickness

6. Take it easy. If you can't avoid the heat, lower the intensity of your walking workout so your body generates less internal heat. Slow down, especially when going uphill. Save the higher intensity workouts for cooler times.

7. Respect the heat. Think twice about exercising when the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) and the relative humidity is above 60 percent, according to the American Council on Exercise.
More: Using the Heat Index to Determine When It's Too Hot to Exercise Outdoors

Jan and Bob in Florida: We have neck clothes with little packets of stuff in them that we keep in the freezer. They help a lot on hot days. We also make sure that we have hats on. Then we have a small towel for each of us in a cooler that has been soaked in water and frozen. Usually by the time we get back from the walk it is just right and we use that to cool down afterwards. And, of course, we carry as much water as we can fit in our hip packs.

Four 16-ounce bottles apiece in the summer. We also try to walk as early as possible, sometimes starting at 5 a.m. to get done before the sun gets too difficult to deal with. Walking in the summer in Florida is a challenge and one year we did 50 kilometers to help my husband celebrate his 50th birthday, but we did it with no sunstroke and no heat exhaustion, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing at 8:00 a.m. with lots of time out for water and ice in between and even one shower.

Patti: Staying cool is partly psychological for me. I always wear a breathable, lightweight, wide-brimmed white hat that is navy blue under the brim, and very dark wrap-around sunglasses. If it's dark where my eyes are, I feel cooler.

On the physical side, I carry a quart water bottle filled with ice and a little water to fill in around the ice. I put this bottle in my day pack wedged up against my back with a towel around the part that's not against me.

That way, I can sip the water frequently and occasionally dab some on my face, neck and wrists if I want to, and still have a nice cold pack to press against my back while I'm moving. Also, I wade in any clean, moving water I come across.

Irene in Las Vegas: Although I'm new to walking as exercise, I'm an old hand when it comes to keeping cool...

I live in Las Vegas! I hope these few tips help:

1. Think early. Early morning walks are not only good for the soul, but they're good for avoiding the heat, smog, humidity, etc., of the day.

2. If you are out walking later, then consider one of the water "bladders" that are currently available. You fill them with water (although I find ice cubes are a good addition), wear it like a backpack and sip through a straw as needed. And water is indispensable.

3. Iced bandanas. I have a friend who will put bandanas in zip-lock bags in her fanny back with ice cubes and wring them out (if needed) and tie around her head.

4. I found cooling hats at dog shows which have a gel-like section (like the ones you find in coolers). They also have ties, scarves, etc., with the same material. Those are also good for keeping cool.

5. If you're in a very sunny and dry area, wear long-sleeved, light, loose cotton clothing. If you notice native desert dwellers anywhere, they are almost never bare-skinned.

Ron and the Arctic Bandana: A couple years ago, I bought a cooling device from one of our club's specialty table at a walk. It is a long cloth tube filled with some kind of gel material. When totally dry, the tube lies flat.

When soaked in water for about 15 to 20 minutes, the gel expands and looks something like a sausage. The "sausage" is then tied around the neck and evaporation keeps the neck cool. Blood flowing through the neck to the head is also cooled. Unlike a regular cloth soaked in water, the "sausage" works for several hours without re-soaking.

Cathey: I ALWAYS carry water with me when I walk. I drink it and dump it on myself if I'm really uncomfortable. Wear as little clothing as possible; walk in the morning or at night, very early or very late (out of the sun is best, if possible).

Lucy on Looking Cool: I look REALLY fat in tank tops, so I stick to tee-shirts, but only size XL.

Then, at the neck, I cut off all the ribbing above the stitch line, and I cut off the bottom so there's nothing below the level of my hip bones; nothing tucked in, trapping air around my torso; nothing to hang over, layering my hips with extra heat-keeping fabric, and the sleeves are wide, affording a sort of cross-ventilation effect. Yet there is no skin bared. Having just that much more air circulation from neck to waist makes a world of difference.

Charlie of Arabia (Oregon City, actually) I wear one of those hats with a cloth part to cover the back of my neck and a longer brim. I also wear polarized sunglasses which keeps the eyes cool and prevents any kind of sun glare problems. I drink lots of water (carry it with me), wear light-colored clothes which reflect the sun and walk a slower pace.

More: 10 Tips for Walking Races in Hot Weather

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