Horseman’s Health: Surviving the Summer Heat

I don’t know what the temps are like where you are, but this summer for me is hot, hot, hot. That makes it tempting to stay indoors in the air conditioning and curb my activity. Add in the summer barbecues, vacations, and parties with often not so healthy foods and this summer could end up completely derailing a healthy lifestyle. But there are still ways to get in your exercise routine, stay cool, and eat healthy even in the hottest of temperatures. Here are a few tips on ways to keep up a healthy lifestyle and cool down through the summer.

Cooling Down
Chairman of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Harvey Meislin, MD, explains how the body works to cool itself as blood flow being diverted from inside the body to the skin allowing heat to escape. We then sweat and as the sweat evaporates, the heat is removed and we cool down. One good way to cool down quicker is to use fans since moving air causes sweat to evaporate more quickly. Another way to cool down your space according to brand manager for the Energy Star program at the EPA, Maria Tikoff Vargas, is to use light bulbs with Energy Star qualified fluorescent bulbs as they put off 75% less heat than incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs cause your cooling system to work harder accommodating for the effects of these type of bulbs. According to Christian Kohler, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, your space can also benefit by blocking the heat that comes through windows, which is approximately 40% of a home’s heat, by using curtains, shades or blinds that completely cover the window area and are of light and reflective colors.

If you are really miserable from the heat you can also apply ice to your wrists, behind knees, and inside elbows as these are the pulse points where circulation is best. This lowers the temperature of the blood and carries this cool down throughout the body. Another popular method for cooling down the body directly is adding a touch of mint to your tea or just chewing on a sprig of mint. It’s the menthol found in mint that gives you the cool down by triggering nerves sensitive to cold found in your mouth. Similarly, just chewing gum that has menthol will give you the same effect as will using soap or lotion with mint on your skin. It may sound strange, but eating spicy foods with hot peppers can also give you a cool down. Capsaicin in the hot peppers can cause you to sweat without actually raising the temperature in your body. Then as the sweat evaporates, the body feels cooler. One thing great about summer is the summer fruits that are high in water content like watermelon. You can get some extra hydration from eating this type of food as well as let go of more body heat by the extra fluid thinning the blood. One of the dangers of summer heat is dehydration. Even if you stay inside and make your area as cool as possible, humidity can cause you to need extra hydrating. You may need to drink more water than you normally do and the more you sweat, the more water you need to replace that fluid loss.

The hot temperatures can also affect appetite in some people which can help with some weight loss but is not healthy if you are not getting the nutrients your body needs to work optimally. Additionally, with eating out on vacation, and going to backyard barbecues and summer parties, our diets often suffer. One solution for both these instances is taking these convenient daily packets with supplements containing a blend of marine and freshwater algae, tonic mushrooms, and sprouted grasses and grains, some of the most nourishing foods on the planet; combined with probiotics and digestive enzymes. This not only gives you the necessary nutrition to keep your body operating at peak performance, but also the digestive support to counteract the effects of those heavy, less healthy meals.

You may not feel much like exercising out in the heat, but keeping up an exercise routine as part of your healthy lifestyle is needed. Swimming is a great summer exercise as according to Kathleen Cowling, DO, vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, any time water is put on the skin it cools you down since this creates the same effect as sweating. She also suggests taking a shower without drying completely off afterwards and sitting by a fan as a way to cool off. A mist spray bottle or a cool cloth at the neck can also create a similar effect. If you do go swimming or are spending any amount of active time outside in the summer heat, be sure to put on waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and for every 20 minutes of exercise, drink at least 4 ounces of water. It is best to pick the coolest times of the day to get your exercise in such as mornings before 10 am or in the evening hours when it starts cooling down. Pay attention to your heart rate as heat or humidity can cause your heart rate to increase. If it becomes too extreme, you may need to slow down your activity or stop it altogether. If you really feel the need for extreme exercise, most gyms are air conditioned and make a good alternative. One plus for the hotter temperatures in the case of exercise is with yoga or stretching exercises since they are more effective with raised temperature levels in the muscles. You also need to remember to stay hydrated not only after exercising, but also before and during exercise so keep water handy. If you have to work outside, be sure to pay attention to the type of clothing you wear. This was something brought to my attention by a reader in response to a previous blog article about summer protection. Advice from her doctor included the need to wear SPF 30+ and up protective clothing when spending lots of time outside in the summer as many of us horsemen and women do. Kerrits, Noble Outfitters, Ariat, and a couple others make SPF30+-50+ tops and breeches. The recommendation of the National Cancer Society is clothing by Coolibar although this is not specifically rider’s clothing.

I hope some of these tips help you have a fun, healthy and somewhat cooler summer.


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About Madalyn Ward, DVM

This blog provides information based on my unique take on horse health and well being. The articles are based on experience of treating and working with horses for over 40 years. In most cases the articles are focused on an holistic approach to health and management. When conventional medicine offers good research or therapy, I share this information as well. Madalyn Ward, DVM