Spending time with nature has its benefits — fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, and a nice change of scenery to help you unwind. But taking your workout from the gym to the great outdoor has its downsides too. Here’s what you need to know before heading out for a sweat.
We like to get a dose of fresh air while we get some endorphins, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Daily pollution from car exhaust, construction dust, factory fumes, and bits of ozone can not only hurt your lung capacity, but it can also lead to asthma and an increased risk for lung cancer. Early mornings and later in the day are times when pollution levels are lowest, and if the Air Quality Index is really high, it might be better for your lungs and health to stay indoors.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), 2014 was one of the warmest years on record for Australia, with the annual national mean rising 0.91 degrees Celsius above the average and the maximum temps increasing 1.16 degrees Celsius higher than normal. The intensity of this heat wave was felt throughout the country, will all states except the Northern Territory, experiencing record numbers.
The BOM also referred to “persistent warmth” throughout the year, indicating that these warm spells extended beyond the hottest months.
Workplace health and safety training should also include information about the signs of heat stroke and best practices for staying healthy under intense conditions.
Heat and Dehydration
Yes, warmer temps will mean sweating more, but it’s important to know when it’s simply too hot to be outside. Before you head out on a run, spin, or hike, check forecasts so you can plan accordingly. Remember to stay hydrated and bring a water bottle so you won’t have to worry about finding water fountains on your route.
Humidity also plays a large role. “High humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, which prevents the body from getting cooler,” says Debi Pillarella, ACE-certified master trainer and expert. The Heat Stress Index, used by forecasters and ACE-certified fitness professionals to coach clients about safe outdoor training, shows that 50 percent humidity makes a 90-degree day feel more like 96 degrees.
To avoid heat exhaustion, sunburn, and heat stroke, pay attention to this scale. “When the heat stress index rises above 90 degrees, you may want to consider rescheduling your workout early in the morning or much later in the day,” Pillarella recommends.
“Always wear sunscreen” is a piece of advice we’ll never stop dishing out. Use about a shot glass’ worth from head to toe and reapply every two hours or more often if you’re really working up a sweat. And remember: toweling off your sweat can mean wiping off SPF, too. To avoid this, top off with a hat to protect your scalp and shield your eyes from the sun.
Wind and rain
Wind, rain, storms and natural disasters can all bring threats of varying intensities. In addition to the more obvious hazards involved in extremely intense weather events – like flooding and cyclone-grade winds – even a bit of rain and wind can heighten the danger of an incident at an outdoor worksite.
For instance, consider whether any activities and locations could become less safe if rain and dampness makes them slippery. Labourers working at heights also need to be protected against the force of winds, while employees carrying out tasks around electrical wiring and equipment should be protected against water-related electric shock.
Taking your workout outdoors means you’re battling with sun, wind, temperature changes, and many other factors in Mother Nature’s obstacle course. “It may take a few workouts for your body to acclimate to your new exercise venue, so you may have to lower your usual intensity to allow your body to adjust to the elements,” suggests Pillarella. Oyen recommends that hikers carry these essentials, even for a hike that would take up half a day:
- Sun protection
- First aid supplies
- Matches or a lighter
- A pocketknife or multi-tool
- Snacks and water
- Reflective emergency blanket (in case you need shelter)
- Flashlight or headlight with batteries