Staying hydrated when you work out is a no brainer, but many of us forget to do so in any type of activity in the hot heat of summer. The romanticized idea of sweet summertime relaxation may not only be attributed to a vacation from books and exams for students (is anything better?) but may also be something scientific, as our bodies work overtime to stay cool as temperatures rise.
Walking through the Southern summer humidity in Wilmington can feel like you’re swimming in soup. The typically mild climate gives way to highs in the 80s and 90s, and just a quick walk from your car to the indoors is enough to make you thankful for those industrial-sized air conditioning units in Target. Growing up in Raleigh, sweat was a natural part of summer, and as I’ve become more knowledgeable about health I’ve realized how important it is to stay hydrated during these months.
Your body sweats as part of its thermoregulation system – think of it like your body’s thermostat, carefully monitoring temperature in the room of your body and maintaining a healthy climate. When you get hot, sweating helps you cool off by pushing sweat to the surface of your skin where it will evaporate, creating a cooling effect. In the process, however, you lose potassium, sodium, and, of course, water.
According to the article “Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy” from the American Heart Association, getting enough fluids, whether or not you’re exercising, is crucial to personal health. Just sitting on the beach in your chair reading your new favorite book can make you sweat, particularly if you’re in direct sunlight. If you’re sweating, you need more fluids. Period. This goes for everyone, from athletes, who also need to refuel with healthy foods and vitamins after intense training, to beachgoers.
And don’t wait to grab a bottle of water until you’re thirsty – that means your body is already dehydrated. While plain old water does the trick, if you like some flavor with what you drink, some great alternatives include coconut and flavored water.
In the article, John Batson, M.D. also says that drinking plenty of water can help you stay heart healthy, too. Being hydrated helps your heart pump, pushing blood to your muscles so that they work and heal properly. Plus, Batson says, it helps your muscles remove waste in the process.
Even if I’m just running errands, I like to carry a reusable bottle of water and ice with me. Staying hydrated and fueled in the heat keeps my energy up and my mind happy. So this summer, when you’re out in the heat, remember grab a bottle of water as you go. Your thermoregulation system – and your health – will thank you.