Have you ever wondered why, despite extremely hot weather, the steam room and hot tub are still go-to destinations at the fitness center? Or why people want to exercise outdoors in the middle of a hot Louisiana summer? These people aren’t crazy; there really are benefits to hitting the heat before, during or after a workout. The reason is that heat relaxes the muscles, increases circulation, flushes out toxins, eases pain and improves immunity.
If you have arthritis or are especially tight, it might be a good idea to hit the steam room before your workout to help loosen up those problem areas. The heat not only eases the aches associated with stiff joints and tight muscles, it also temporarily increases the elasticity of the connective tissues. Stimulation of white blood cells boosts immunity, and sweating allows your body to release toxins. Plus, it’s incredibly soothing. For safety, be sure to limit yourself to 10 to 20 minutes in the hot tub or steam room, especially if you have neuropathy.
As body temperature rises, your blood vessels dilate and blood flows more easily throughout your body. Nutrients and oxygen are delivered to your hard-working muscles more efficiently. When done properly, outdoor exercise in the heat can increase cardiovascular endurance and athletic performance.
Being in the heat also helps your body to regulate core body temperature more efficiently. It takes the body about two weeks to acclimate to exercise in the heat, so start out by exercising earlier or later in the day when the temperature is not too extreme and exercise for a shorter amount of time at a lower intensity. Do this over several days, gradually adding a few more minutes and upping the intensity of each session. Wear clothes that allow your body to cool and wick away sweat. Two weeks to acclimate to hot weather is average; it may take you longer depending on your health, age and fitness level. Always consult a healthcare professional before trying any new fitness plan.
Be smart and stay hydrated – drink plenty of water. If you tend to sweat profusely, adding electrolytes to your water could help restore those lost during exercise. If you start to feel any symptoms of heat exhaustion (sweating more than normal, thirst, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, fatigue, weakness) or heat stroke (lack of or extremely heavy sweating, slurred speech, confusion), leave the warm area immediately and call for help. Remember to limit your time in the heat to 10 to 20 minutes. You don’t want too much of a good thing.
Willis-Knighton has steam rooms at several of our fitness center locations. Call or come see us for your free guest pass and enjoy the numerous fitness amenities we have to offer.