Heating Up: Exercising in the Heat

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

Summer has arrived and so has the heat. As you continue exercising this summer, remember to protect your body from injury due to overheating. When the environmental temperature rises, the body has increased difficulty cooling itself through its normal means.  Heat stroke from exercise is one of the three leading causes of sudden death in sports activities.1

Exertional Heat Illness

This refers to a spectrum of disorders resulting from total body heat stress. This can include cramps, heat exhaustion, heat injury and heat stroke. The symptoms and treatments for each of these vary slightly, however heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two of the most severe.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a result of overheating. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.


  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Clumsy
  • Unsteady walking
  • Muscle cramps


  • Rest in shade
  • Loosen uniform, remove head gear
  • Drink water
  • Take to doctor if no improvement or if condition worsens

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke indicates brain function is compromised and can be fatal if left untreated.


  • Profuse sweating
  • Convulsions and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion, mumbling
  • Combative
  • Losing consciousness


  • Cool the body and call for help
  • Remove all outer clothing
  • Initiate rapid cooling
  • Call for medical assistance

Risk factors for Heat Illness 1, 3

It is important to note that there are various internal and external factors that can put you at risk for exertional heat injury. Some of these factors are within your control. Please use good judgment prior to initiating a workout this summer. Below are some risk factors to look out for:

  • High temperature
  • High humidity
  • High exertion
  • Heavy loads/gear
  • Age >40
  • Females are more at risk than males
  • Prior heat injury
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol in past 24 hours
  • Poor overall physical fitness

Prevention of Heat Related Illness 2, 3

The best way to protect yourself from exertional heat injury is to be educated on ways to prevent it in the first place. Use these suggestions to keep you and your workouts safe in the summertime heat.

  • Heat acclimatization
  • Education
  • Avoiding exercise if ill
  • Gradual addition of equipment/padding
  • Maintain hydration
  • Workout early or late in the day
  • Allow for recovery periods

If you feel you are suffering from any heat related illness, please contact your physician. If you have questions regarding a physical injury, please contact Athletico for a free injury screen.

Schedule a Free Injury Screen

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Casa DJ, Demartini JK, Bergeron MF, et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Exertional Heat Illnesses. J Athl Train. 2015;50(9):986-1000.
2. Nichols AW. Heat-related illness in sports and exercise. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2014;7(4):355-65.
3. Racinais S, Alonso JM, Coutts AJ, et al. Consensus recommendations on training and competing in the heat. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(18):1164-73.

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