Sports / Orthopedic

Effects of Heat and Humidity on Runners

Aug 16 2019

It’s important to know the effects heat humidity have on runners.

When temperatures are high, your regular workout probably seems harder. That’s even truer when there’s moisture in the air. Heat and humidity have physical effects on people’s bodies. Find out why and what you can do to best prepare for training in warm weather.

What happens to your body temperature when you run?

Running makes your body temperature rise and its solution is to sweat. The sweat on your skin then evaporates which makes you cooler. This is your body’s built-in heat regulator.

Your body also sends more blood to your skin when it gets hot because the plasma in your blood also helps cool your body. While sending the plasma to your skin, your red blood cells come along too. This process then affects other parts of your body:

  • Your muscles need more oxygen-rich blood.
  • Less blood returns to your heart, making your heart work harder.
  • Your body has to decide if it should send more blood to your skin to cool it off or more blood to your muscles to give them fuel.

How do heat and humidity affect your body?

Your body knows how to regulate itself. But when heat and humidity levels rise, your body works harder to stay balanced. Humidity is the amount of water in the air. This moisture makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate off your skin, so you don’t cool off. And here’s why it’s harder to run:

  • Your heart and lungs work harder to make up for less oxygen, leading to exhaustion.
  • When more blood goes to your skin, your muscles get less oxygen-filled blood. This leaves you with less energy to keep up your normal pace.

Prepare for the humidity

It’s possible to continue to get effective runs in during the hot summer months. Running at a slower pace or with lower expectations can be better for your training program than not running at all. Use these strategies to prepare physically and mentally for your runs:

  • Listen to your body and change your expectations. Don’t focus on how fast you’re going. Focus on the amount of effort you’re putting forth. If you’re breathing hard and pushing your limits, you’re getting an effective workout.

Your body will adapt

The good news is your body will adapt to running in the heat and humidity after about two weeks. Your body can learn how to cool itself more efficiently and release fewer minerals in your sweat.

Learn more about the Sports Medicine services offered at Mercy Health.

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