Summer is a lovely time of year to get out and exercise, with longer days and water activities to enjoy. Moving our bodies keeps us fit and helps us feel younger for longer. It also has numerous health benefits, such as reducing our risk of heart-attacks, diabetes and fractures, boosting our mood, improving mental health and even increasing our life-expectancy.
Get out and make the most of the summer holidays, but remember to be mindful of dehydration and heat exhaustion, as older people are at higher risk of these conditions.
Dehydration occurs when a person has lost too much fluid from their body, leading to symptoms such as:
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Dry mouth, lips and tongue
- Feeling exhausted
- An inability to concentrate
- Urinating very little, with a strong-smelling and dark-coloured urine.
Dehydration can occur very quickly in summer, as the heat can lead to excess sweating. If you feel any of these symptoms, it is important to rest and replace the fluid you have lost by drinking clear liquids, such as water, juice or a sports drink.
Severe dehydration is a serious condition, characterised by drowsiness, fainting, rapid breathing and a rapid pulse. Call 000 if you suspect this is the case as immediate medical treatment will be required.
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person’s body is over-heated and unable to cool itself. Our bodies don’t regulate our core body temperature as easily as we age, so it’s important for seniors to be aware of this condition. Symptoms include:
- Excess sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
- Muscle cramps
Heat exhaustion can occur gradually while exercising or develop suddenly, especially under the hot, summer sun. If you feel any of these symptoms, it is important to rest in the shade, drink cool water, and remove any excess clothing. It might also be necessary to place damp cloths over your body. It’s important heat exhaustion is treated quickly, so it doesn’t progress to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is characterised by confusion, disorientation, a rapid pulse and fast, shallow breathing. Call 000 if you suspect this is the case, as heat stroke is a medical emergency.
The good news is that both dehydration and heat exhaustion are easy to prevent with a few simple steps.
Here are 6 tips on how to stay safe while exercising this summer:
Timing is key
Make sure to exercise in the mornings, before the day heats up, or in the evenings, when temperature has cooled down. Pay attention to the weather reports and avoid exercising on days of extreme heat.
Protect yourself from the sun
Even when exercising at 9am the UV rating can be high, so remember to ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ for sun protection. Slip on a light-weight cotton shirt, slop on some 50+ sunscreen, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on some sunglasses. Our skin gets thinner and more fragile as we age, so it is important to remember to protect ourselves from the harsh Australian sun.
Remember to drink
We lose our sense of thirst as we age, so it’s important to remember to drink plenty of water during the day. You might want to remember to have a glass of water each time you eat, such as at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You could consider carrying a water bottle when you walk, to replenish the sweat you lose as you go. Also remember to have a water bottle handy when enjoying exercise in water, as we can even sweat while we swim.
If you find drinking water a bit tedious, add a slice of lemon, lime or orange. Some people enjoy adding herbs for flavour, such as mint leaves or rosemary, and others enjoy adding frozen berries. You also might enjoy drinking sparkling water.
Everything in moderation
During summer, limit the duration of strenuous exercise and limit the time you spent in the sun. This will also reduce your risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Also limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as both these substances are diuretics. This means they increase the production of urine, increasing your risk of dehydration while you exercise.
If it is too hot to walk outside, consider going for a walk in a large air-conditioned space, such as a shopping centre, or going for a swim at your local pool. Most gyms are air conditioned and have classes suitable for seniors, which might be a good way to get exercise and meet new friends. If it’s a hot day, cool off after exercise by having a cool shower or bath. Also use an air-conditioner in your home. Don’t worry about the cost – your health is more important than money.
Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to keep active and social. It also means you will have help if you need it. Chat to your carer, if you have one, about what opportunities might be available for you to interact with others. If you are the family member of an older person, make sure to check-in with them regularly during the summer, particularly on hot days.