The Great Outdoors

Warm weather exercise precautions
Author: Matt McMillen

With almost limitless options to exercise, play sports and stay physically active, the world outside your window is an ideal place to get and stay fit.

“It’s very important to get outside,” says Cindy Bailey, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, a physical therapist at the Orthopaedic Hemophilia Treatment Center at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles. “Often, people with bleeding disorders are quite conservative and cautious when it comes to exercise. But by getting outside, they see just how many possibilities there are.”

Exercising in the summer heat comes with a few caveats, but if you play it right, the fun-to-risk ratio falls squarely in your favor.

Ease into exercise

If you’re not used to outdoor activities, talk to your physical therapist before you get started so you can learn how to move and play safely outside. Take it slowly at first, says Heidi Purrington, PT, a physical therapist at the Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona. If you are beginning a new walking program, for example, stick to flat surfaces that won’t challenge your balance. Then gradually increase your distance.

“Walk a variety of surfaces, and you will work different muscles,” says Purrington. “But if your joints are not ready for uneven surfaces, you increase your chances of injury.” As you become better conditioned, try more challenging terrain, like a hiking trail, she says.

Grace Hernandez, PT, a physical therapist at the Children’s Hospital Orange County Hemophilia Program, also likes to see her patients out and about. “Walking on the beach is a great strengthening and balance exercise for your legs,” she says.  Hill climbing provides a workout for our cardiovascular system, she adds. “Plus, being out in nature is good for the mind, body and soul.”

To further protect yourself from injury, wear the proper shoe for the activity you choose. Purrington recommends shoes with good traction and heel support. Ideally, you should be fitted at a shoe store where you can get help from a well-trained salesperson. Pedorthists are shoe specialists who help people with common foot problems, like bunions or hammer toes. All shoe salespeople should be able to determine your size and width, and the type of shoe that is best for the activities you want to do.

Managing heat and sunshine

The summer heat and sun also bring their own set of risks, but they’re easy to manage if you plan ahead. “Getting plenty of water while you’re active is unbelievably important,” says Bailey. It’s not enough to carry a supply of water with you when you’re working up a sweat, she says. You should start hydrating as early as the day before. You need sufficient water in your system at all times, she adds.

The same water precautions go for kids, who don’t feel dehydrated as easily as adults, says Hernandez. “Make them drink before they are thirsty,” she says. However, if treating your bleeding disorder with DDAVP, consult your physician about hydration. DDAVP is an antidiuretic, which causes your body to retain water. You may be cautioned to restrict your fluid intake, so find out how much hydration is reasonable for you.

Use sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors, and reapply if you swim or sweat. Wear loose, light-colored clothing to help you stay cool, says Purrington. Several companies sell clothing that wicks away the sweat.

Hernandez recommends sunglasses and/or a hat to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. If you can, schedule your time outside during the early parts of the morning or late in the day, when the sun is less brutal. And take heat advisories seriously. If it’s too hot or humid outside or if the air quality is poor, exercise indoors.

Finally, Bailey discourages her patients from exercising or playing sports alone. You should always carry a fully charged cellphone and have a friend or partner with you, she says.

The better prepared you are, the greater the fun factor. “Getting outdoors makes you realize just how many choices you have to be active,” says Bailey.