Is Running in Heat Bad for You?

race-day-720x288I can’t count how many times people have said to me, “Isn’t running bad for you?” I state that living a sedentary lifestyle is worse (as I generally find the majority of people asking this question are in fact, non-exercisers). However, taking this sport to the extreme can cause harm.

In a recent study out in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers provide evidence that runners should feel more concerned with heat stroke than running long distances–this is especially of interest as we move into the hottest weeks of the year.

What is heat stroke? It occurs when your core body temperature rises 104 or 105 degrees above the normal, and is associated with dysfunctioning organs.

In this article, researchers studied 137,000 runners participating in endurance races in Tel Aviv–(a great locale for a heat study). They found only two serious cardiac cases: a heart attack and arrhythmia. Heat stroke occurred in 21 runners (two cases ended up fatal, 12 life threatening).

According to the Israeli researchers, “The diagnosis of heat stroke can be missed and mistaken for a cardiac disorder unless the core temperature– which can only be reliably obtained with a rectal measurement– is taken immediately.”

Additionally, “The risk of heat stroke is not limited to endurance races… [it’s] an important cause of death among high school and college football players, who train and compete wearing heavy protective equipment.”

Although it sounds like 21 out of 137,000 is slim, it’s still a cause for concern. The best combatant to heat stroke is hydration. According to exercise physiologist Jaime Roberts, “The body cools off by sweating, and as long as you remain hydrated, the body is able to cool itself off.”

Roberts recommends the following:

20 ounces of water two hours before exercise

At least 8 ounces of water shortly before outdoor workouts

A gulp every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.

Happy running!