Medical experts say there are a host of risks involved in alfresco workouts this time of year. We get some expert tips on how to beat the heat.
Planning outside exercise during UAE summer? You need to read this
As cabin fever sets in over the summer months, it's common to yearn for some exercise in the vast outdoors.
Evidence of this can be seen in the parks and beachfronts of the UAE, where, despite the fiery heat and soup-like humidity, the odd brave soul occasionally attempts to jog.
Medical experts say there are a host of risks involved in alfresco workouts this time of year, including heat cramps and muscle spasms caused by excessive loss of water and salt.
Then there is heat exhaustion, when dehydration can result in dizziness and nausea.
Lastly and most seriously is heatstroke, when exposure to the sun causes the body temperature to rise above 40.6 °C. This can lead to coma or, in extreme cases, death.
Nevertheless, many say the summer months do not necessarily mean locking yourself away under a roof. As long as you take precautions, it is feasible to safely indulge in some vigorous activities outdoors.
Corey Oliver of the Original Fitness Co launched the country's first beach boot camps in Dubai in 2006. Three years later, his company introduced the military-style training sessions in Abu Dhabi.
"Back then, everyone was just training in hotel gyms," he recalls.
"I think once we launched our boot camps and people saw us exercising out on the beaches, it made them realise that they could go outside to do it, too."
He advises caution, though.
"Our boot camps start at 6am and 7.30pm, so it's not really the extreme heat of the day. But it still gets warm and can be pretty humid at that time of day.
"We look at the group, and if they're really suffering we will take it down a bit. It's really at our own discretion."
During the summer, trainers reduce the intensity and give people more water breaks, Oliver says.
Dr Ihab Ramadan, the head of the Accident and Emergency department at the Medcare Hospital in Dubai, says it is common to treat people for heat-related illnesses in the summer.
"Most of these patients are people who are working outside, though, such as construction workers or cleaners. People who exercise outside tend to be quite sensible and realise you have to be careful during the summer months. But we do get a few of them every year."
One can still enjoy the great outdoors, he says, but precautions are necessary.
Acclimatising is also imperative, Ramadan says. Gradually build the length and intensity of your workout while the summer sets in.
He recommends steadily drinking water from two to four hours before you start exercising, then quenching your thirst every 15 minutes during your session.
"If you are moving vigorously, keeping hydrated is the most important thing you can do. Water is fine for this. You only really need salts or sports drinks if you are exercising for more than 60 minutes," he says.
Oliver also recommends upping your water intake: "Because the air conditioning dehydrates you anyway, you should be drinking about four and a half litres of liquids every day. If you're exercising hard, this should go up to six litres per day."
Still, he encourages people to opt for some outdoor physical activity as long as they are vigilant about the risks.
"I think it's so much better to be out there in the natural fresh air, running on natural surfaces like the grass or the beach rather than on a treadmill belt putting all this strain on your knees and ankles."
If the extreme heat is too much, there are a few places in the UAE where you can escape the sunshine.
• Haddins Fitness has taken over the du Forum indoor arena on Yas Island, offering fitness classes, athletics and football training, mostly for kids, as well as zumba classes for ladies. Call 02 403 4233 for more information
• Corey Oliver's Original Fitness Co will set up an indoor training facility as part of the Dubai Sports City event at the World Trade Centre. Inside a cool conference hall, his trainers will put on classes such as boot camps, yoga and corporate wellness sessions. Call 04 311 6571 for more information
• For football fanatics in Abu Dhabi looking to carry on playing throughout the summer, the Dome@Rawdhat could be the answer. The purpose-built football facility on Airport Road near Carrefour has a huge inflatable dome containing an air-conditioned football pitch. It can be reached at 02 449 8480
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