7 Tips for Staying Cool on Hot Weather Walks

Man drinking water after exercise
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If the heat is on outdoors, follow these cool walking tips to make the most of your climate and maintain your walking routine. Becoming overheated can be dangerous. In many circumstances, it is best to do your walking workouts on the treadmill or an indoor walking track rather than risk unhealthy heat conditions.

Choose a Cool Time of Day to Walk

Know your local climate so you can find the best times to walk. Dawn is best, although it comes early in June and July in the Northern hemisphere. In some areas, a sea breeze begins cooling things down in mid-afternoon.

But in many inland areas, temperatures rise until early evening, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and do not cool off until sunset. Your after-work walk schedule may put you into the hottest time of day.

Think twice about exercising outdoors when the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) and the relative humidity is above 60%, according to the American Council on Exercise. Check weather apps and heat index charts and use them to determine when it's too hot to exercise outside.

Select a Route That Includes Shade

Avoid direct sun and walking on asphalt or concrete. Natural surface paths shaded by trees are cooler places to walk. These are also favored by insects, so choose an insect repellent if they bug you too much, and check for ticks afterward.

You can use an online mapping app to find a walking route. Check the satellite or hybrid view to see where trees and shade may be.

Stay Hydrated

Drink a big glass of water (17 to 20 ounces) two to three hours before you start your walk, and then eight ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before the walk. That starts you off well-hydrated, but allows you to eliminate any extra before you start walking so that your bladder isn't uncomfortably full.

Then drink about a cup of water (7 to 10 ounces) every 10 to 20 minutes along your walk. You can tell if you end up dehydrated after your walk if your pulse rate remains high and your urine is dark yellow. Carry water on your walk so you can drink when you are thirsty. Water is the best drink when walking for up to an hour.

Start with plenty of ice in your water so it stays cooler during your walk. Look for insulated water bottles and hydration packs. If you are walking and sweating for more than an hour, switch after the first hour to a sports drink that replaces electrolytes (body salt).

Make Your Own Shade

Your hot-weather walking gear should include light-colored clothing that shields you from the sun's ultraviolet rays. While you may think less clothing will be cooler, loose, lightweight clothing that doesn't absorb sunlight is more comfortable.

Wear a hat with a visor or a desert cap with flaps to shade your neck. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkles. Wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB to protect your eyes.

Use Cooling Tactics

Buy a cooling bandanna that contains crystals that swell with water and keep your neck cool for a long time. You can also dampen and freeze a bandanna or washcloth and keep it in a ziplock bag with ice cubes, even carrying it in an insulated carrier in a backpack. Then place it around your neck for a quick cool-down when you need it.

Splashing your face and neck with cool water can also help you cool down. During your walk, you can soak your hat in the water at a water fountain to help keep you cool. If you wear sweatbands on your wrists, soaking those in cool water can also help provide heat relief.

Take It Easy

If you can't avoid the heat, lower the intensity of your walking workout so your body generates less internal heat. Slow down, especially when going uphill. Save the higher intensity workouts for cooler times.

Also, note that if you are going from a cool climate to a warm one that you will feel the heat even at relatively cool temperatures. If you are traveling, take this into account and plan easier workouts until you are used to the new climate.

Watch for Heat Sickness and Dehydration

Monitor yourself and your walking companions for signs of heat sickness. If you become dizzy, nauseated, have dry skin or chills, stop and try to get a drink of water or a sports drink.

If you do not feel better, get medical help immediately. If you are under care for a medical condition, especially heart or respiratory problems, or have had heat stroke previously, consult with your healthcare provider about walking in the heat.

One research review of cooling strategies during exercise found that they helped exercisers keep going, but didn't appear to actually reduce internal body temperature. You may still be at risk for heat sickness even if you don't feel hot. Keep that in mind and stay safe.

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5 Sources
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  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Hydration for athletes. Updated May 11, 2017.

  3. American Academy of Family Physicians. Dehydration. Updated May 10, 2017.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tips to stay safe in the sun: from sunscreen to sunglasses. Updated February 21, 2019.

  5. Ruddock A, Robbins B, Tew G, Bourke L, Purvis A. Practical cooling strategies during continuous exercise in hot environments: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2017;47(3):517-532. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0592-z