With the arrival of summer, people who exercise or play sports outdoors can reduce the risk of heatstroke by giving themselves a chance to adjust to rising temperatures and humidity.

You need to adjust your level and amount of exercise to allow the body to acclimate to the warmer, humid conditions. Slowly expose yourself to warmer weather. This might mean shorter durations and less intensity during your running or walking, for example.

People who are not accustomed to hot and humid weather and exercise outdoors run the risk of developing exertional heatstroke. Exertional heatstroke differs from traditional heatstroke, which occurs when a person is exposed to extremely high temperatures, such as during a summer heat wave. With exertional heatstroke, you build up body heat from the muscles you are exercising; the body has a harder time cooling itself through evaporation of sweat, thus trapping heat in your body.

Symptoms of exertional heatstroke include muscle cramps, disorientation and exhaustion. If you start to "feel funny" while exercising outdoors during hot weather, stop exercising, seek out a cool place and slowly drink some water.

To avoid such problems, adjust your exercising time when possible. A morning or evening workout, when it’s cooler and the sun is not so intense, is a better choice. Whenever people exercise outside, it is crucial that they drink enough water. Adequate water helps the skin work as a "radiator" to release heat. Drink adequate amounts of water to replace fluid lost by sweating. Dress with clothes that allow the body to cool – for example, Coolmax fabrics work well. Also wear a cap and sunglasses to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun.

How much?

• Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses every day, not including what you drink during physical activity;

• Drink at least 2 cups of water 2-2 ½ hours before activity;

• Drink 2 cups 15 minutes before your activity;

• Drink ½ cup every 15 minutes during activity;

• Drink 2 cups of water for every pound lost during your activity.

Action tip:

• Start out the day with a glass of water first thing in the morning;

• Have a glass with each meal and snack;

• Carry a water bottle wherever you go and sip throughout the day.

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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