Environmental conditions, particularly extreme temperature increases exercise-related stress. For every sporting activity, there is an ideal ambient temperature. Any difference from this reference temperature can cause a poor impact on performance.
Physical activity in an atmosphere that is warm or cold requires the body’s temperature regulators to work harder. Although very effective, these thermoregulatory mechanisms may not be able to cope with extreme conditions.
How Extreme Heat Affects Performance
Exercise causes the body to produce a lot of heat. In extreme conditions, the heat can elevate from its core temperature from 37° C to beyond 40° C. When the surrounding air is cool, heat can be lost from the body. When the surrounding temperature increases, it will be more difficult for the body to lose heat.
The usual cause of heat loss in warm to hot conditions is when the sweat evaporates on skin surface. Perspiration is an effective mechanism of heat generation or output under physical workload. When the temperature of the environment is higher than the body temperature, the body generates heat.
Your body may lose up to 1 liter of sweat per hour. Unless fluid loss is not replenished, you may suffer from dehydration and your basic life functions may be jeopardized.
Highly physically demanding activities under hot weather can cause the body to overheat. Overheating is when mechanisms responsible for regulating body temperature stop working. This term is also known as hyperthermia. Symptoms of hyperthermia include stoppage of perspiration, hot and dry skin, tachycardia and tachypnoea, confusion, faintness, and unconsciousness.
How Cold Affects Performance
In cold weather, athletes try to avoid heat loss and a fall in the core body temperature. If the body is in a low temperature, this state is referred to as hypothermia. Hypothermia, happens when core temperature drops below 35°C.
In a fatigued person, it may show poor control of movement, disorientation, and poor judgment and reasoning. When the temperature reaches 30°C, the person becomes unconscious. Producing more heat or reduce heat loss are two ways to cope with cold weather.
Shivering is the most important defense mechanism against cold. It is caused by non-synchronised rhythmic muscle twitches which do not result in a changed position. Other ways the body produces heat are hunger, increased voluntary activity, enhanced secretion of nonadrenaline and adrenaline.
Low body temperature comes with decline in the basal metabolism. When the body temperature reaches 28°C the metabolic rate drops half of its normal values.
Higher Injury Risk
Exercising in hot weather puts additional strain on your body. In cold weather, the muscles are highly susceptible to injuries.
As sweat is produced by exercise, it cools the body off. However, perspiration also means we lose necessary body fluids and become dehydrated, making it difficult to sweat and cool down. When this happens, it might lead to heat injury. Heat injuries range from mild heat cramps to life-threatening heat stroke.
Cold weather tends to reduce muscle flexibility, which increases the risk of injury. A 10 to 15 minute of warm-up, consisting of increasingly more strenuous exercise and dynamic stretching, should be done first to reduce the risk of muscle strain and to increase your heart rate. People with arthritic conditions experience joint pain more likely in cold weather.
If the weather conditions are too extreme, it is better to exercise indoors. If you really need to exercise, start thinking now about what kind of exercise you should be doing inside when the weather is not good. One great tip is to talk to your physiotherapist for recommended indoor exercises.
If you have weather-related injury or simply in need of advice about exercising under extreme conditions, get in touch with us at 9444 8729!