OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Stay healthy when you exercise or play outdoors in the Utah heat

Jul 19, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:13 am

FILE: A hiker watches the sunset after a hike inside Capitol Reef National Park. (Chuck Wing, Deser...

FILE: A hiker watches the sunset after a hike inside Capitol Reef National Park. (Chuck Wing, Deseret News)

(Chuck Wing, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — With more daily record temperatures expected this weekend many outdoors lovers in Utah will be looking to get to the high country to exercise and beat the heat.  But you can still find yourself dehydrated and in trouble if you exercise outside and don’t pay attention to some basic safety tips.

Pre-hydration before you exercise outdoors in the heat

Everyone knows about the importance of hydration when playing outdoors in the heat, but few pay attention to the need for “pre-hydration.” 

By the time symptoms of dehydration begin to appear it can be too late to get enough water or sports drinks into your system. What can follow is dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, or any number of ailments. 

Extreme cases of dehydration can actually be fatal.

Athletes are taught that two to four hours before an event (in this example, hiking,) they should sip on 13- to 26 ounces of fluid depending on their body weight. Hydration powders, electrolytes, or salt tablets are also options to prime your body’s engine to avoid things like heat exhaustion. 

There is an old hiker saying that helps remind us how to treat these symptoms based on facial appearance, “red, raise the head, pale, raise the tail.”

Clothing

A good hat and sunscreen should be on everyone’s list before playing or exercising outdoors in the heat.  The best choice has a wide brim that shades your face and your neck. 

A long-sleeve hooded shirt may seem counterintuitive when it’s hot outside.  In fact, it can protect you from the sun’s rays. Wet it down to create a swamp cooler effect.

Clothing technology has come a long way and today provides comfort, quick drying, and breathable options. We’ve recently discussed clothing made of bamboo that reportedly provides all-day sun protection with an ultraviolet protection ratings of UPF 20 to 50+.  (UPF is the equivalent of SPF ratings in sunscreen.)

A stuffable light jacket, or thin poncho in case of rain or hail, are also great ideas.

Know your altitude when playing outdoors in the heat

You will definitely find cooler air the higher you climb. But it’s important to remember that, at altitude, the air is also thinner. This means exposure to more sunshine which makes all of the things we’ve talked about more important.

Exercising at elevation also comes with the possibility of altitude sickness.  So take a few practice runs at 7,000 feet before tackling a run at 8,000 to 10,000 feet, which can mean its own unique headaches.

And if you’re going to spend the day fishing or boating be aware that the reflected light from the water exposes you to the sun’s rays from two different angles. On the water, polarized sunglasses can limit some exposure to your face and eyes.

Turn around

Finally, and maybe one of the most important notes according to rescuers, is to remember that when you reach your hike destination, you are only half-way there!  You’ll still need to have the energy and stamina to get back to the trailhead safely and back home to loved ones.

So when you stop for hydration breaks or snacks, turn around and take a look at the trail behind you!  It will look a bit different heading the other way. Take note of landmarks to help guide you back, because getting lost only lengthens your exposure to the elements.

Related reading:

 

Tim Hughes hosts Utah’s Morning News (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) as well as KSL Outdoors (Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.) 

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Stay healthy when you exercise or play outdoors in the Utah heat