Most people prefer air-conditioning in the warmer months but taking a soak in the tub could actually help you get a better body
The months of Summer bring a brutal heat that, should you not have air-conditioning, can be insufferable. You resort to freezing your clothes before wearing them, strapping ice packs onto your body or sleeping in the bath tub (not recommended). But when it becomes a necessity to wear minimal clothing, so too is the need to exercise.
Exercising in hot weather may not be a priority for everyone but having conducted a study of how to best prepare for athletic competitions in the heat, scientists have discovered that having a hot bath might be the most effective way.
When it’s hot, our hearts labour to shunt more blood to the skin, which allows internal heat to dissipate but also leaves us feeling fatigued with legs that seem made of wood. There’s also the potential risk of heat illness that ranges from nausea to heat stroke to worry about too. Ways to combat exercising in the heat have been explored by scientists and top coaches for years. Some swear by precooling, a method that entails drinking icy beverages or applying ice to the skin prior to exercise with the belief that it allows us to withstand higher temperatures outside by lowering our body’s internal or skin temperature before we start.
Others champion heat acclimation which, although a slower process of adaptation, allows the body to change in a number of ways such as starting to sweat earlier and more profusely, ultimately reducing the buildup of internal heat and easing the demands on your heart.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research saw scientists examine the impacts of precooling and heat acclimation on runners. A study of nine recreational runners not accustomed to the heat were invited to the lab which, with its temperature at 32 degrees Celsius, seemed to resemble a furnace. There they were asked to complete a simulated 5km race at top speed on a treadmill. This race was repeated on three subsequent visits.
Before one of the races, the runners engaged in precooling their skin by thrusting an arm into cold water and wearing cooling vests and athletic underwear fitted with ice packs. After 20 minutes, the runners removed their ice packs and ran again. Following this, the scientists began a process of acclimating the runners to the heat. The temperatures in the lab were cranked up to 37 degrees. Participants were then asked to pedal an exercise bike for 90 minutes in the heat at an increasingly vigorous pace for five days in a row. Following this, the runners repeated the 5km treadmill race.
In the final visit, the runners again donned frozen undergarments and ran again. After this, the scientists compared times and, surprisingly, they were found to be fastest after four days of acclimation, dropping their time by more than 6.5 percent compared to the first run.
Leader of the study, Carl James, said that the results indicate that “you will receive a bigger bang for your buck from acclimating to the heat rather than by temporarily cooling yourself down” with clothing.
Despite this, acclimatization really only works when you have the time. And given that most of us don’t have the time to bike for 90 minutes, let alone wait for an Uber X pick-up, we can instead acclimate by soaking in a hot bath “heated to at least 40 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes after a 30-minute run.” This is said to make the body sweat more to release internal heat.
Bear in mind, whenever you exercise in extreme conditions, you need to be careful. Exercising in the heat can make you more prone to headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramping and other indicators of heat illness. If any of that occurs, slow down and seek the comfort of the shade…or an air-conditioned Uber home.