How exercising in hot conditions affects your body - Bridgwater & Taunton College

The sun is shining, summer holidays are here and Wimbledon is on the TV. When could be a better time to exercise?

Heat affects each person differently, some people burn, sweat and go red while others seem to have no noticeable change. The ability to tolerate heat is generic, there is not much that people can do to change their innate physiological response, but there are some general things we can pay attention to.

When exercising in the heat, it is important to wear sun cream, even if not in the direct sun. When exercising, sweat forms on the skin having a magnifying effect of the sun’s rays, making any UV stronger and the impact of the sun greater.

The human body is amazing but it needs to maintain a constant temperature to be effective. There is real danger of serious injury if the body overheats, possibly even fatal consequences. But this isn’t a reason to not exercise. The body adapts to heat in different ways, firstly our heart rate increases to speed the flow of blood around the body. The blood is hot and as it passes near the surface of the skin, some of the heat is lost to the atmosphere. In addition, the blood vessels nearer the surface of the skin dilate to allow a greater flow of blood to the surface to maximise the cooling effect. To maximise the cooling effect of this it is important to wear the right clothing, i.e. clothing that allows heat to leave the body.

A more obvious means of losing heat by the body is through sweating. This is where the water in the body is warmed, and the water is then excreted through the pores of the skin. As the water then sits on the surface of the skin it evaporates, taking a slight bit of heat with it. Again, for this to work effectively we need to wear clothing that allows evaporation to take place.

Cotton t-shirts used for exercising are not appropriate clothing, and may hinder your ability to cool down. The cotton absorbs the sweat from the body but then stops any more from evaporating. It is best to wear something close-fitting but made of modern man-made materials, which has a high wicking ability (the ability to take moisture away).

Obviously, these methods require us to be hydrated. Our blood transports oxygen to our muscles allowing them to work; when we are hydrated our blood is slightly denser than water. However, as we get dehydrated our blood gets denser, like treacle, which makes it harder to transport oxygen and nutrients. When this happens our body tries to do too much, it tries to cool us down and ensure our vital organs (heart and brain) have enough oxygen to work. As such it starts to focus on survival, by providing oxygen to the organs.

When this happens we have problems forming cognitive thoughts (thinking clearly) and start to suffer from hypothermia, leading to poor decision making.

Our higher education sport students have undertaken testing to review the physical impact of heat and cold on human performance. If you are interested in learning about the body, coaching and sports science we still have places available on our Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Sports Science with Sports Coaching Education. For more information please contact our Information and Guidance team on 01278 441234.

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