How to keep cool when walking in the summer

hiking lady enjoying country hillside views, wearing cap, sitting
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The summer of 2018 was a great summer, with some really hot days. Which is lovely if you are sitting by a pool or on the beach, but what happens if you are out putting in the miles walking and the sun is beating down on you?

To keep cool when walking in the summer you should:

  • Keep hydrated
  • Wear appropriate clothing
  • Apply sun block
  • Walk at the coolest times of the day
  • Try to keep to shady areas

Keeping Hydrated

It’s important at any time to keep hydrated. It’s so easy to not drink enough water just going about your everyday life, so when you add exercise in the form of walking, and the power of the sun’s rays in hot weather, then water really is essential to your health.

Water makes up two-thirds of your body weight and is essential for it to function properly, and when you are walking in the sunshine your body will sweat more than normal. Therefore please ensure to take on water before, during, and after your walk.

I always like to drink a pint of water before I head off for a walk in the summer months (and sometimes the same amount in other months too). And as soon as I get back I head straight for the kitchen and pour myself another pint of water from the tap.

It’s also important to have plenty of fluids during your walk, and so I always try to carry a water bottle or two. That’s why if I am out for more than just a short walk I will often carry a rucksack – I can fit in that a couple of bottles of water, along with any maps, sun protection, sunglasses and so on, without it being too heavy to carry.

You may also want to consider a rucksack that can hold a water bladder, which is a soft container for water with a long tube which feeds through from your rucksack to your mouth. That way you don’t have to stop and sift through your rucksack to get to your bottle, and avoid any accidental spillages when you forget to do the lid up on your bottle properly. if you have not seen one before then check out this popular one on Amazon from Raniaco.

I try to drink every 15 minutes or so – although it is easy to get distracted by the beautiful scenery that you get in the summer. But leave it too late and you will start to overheat, your mouth will be dry, and you may start to feel muscle cramps. Fatigue will kick in, and before you know it you are at the furthest point away and struggling – and you don’t want that. Keeping your fluids up is essential to dealing with extreme heat.

If you feel that you are drinking lots but still needing something more, then you may want to take some electrolyte tablets with you. You may also need these on normal days in the heat, even when not walking, especially if you are drinking lots of water but it is just going straight through you and you are peeing lots.

young couple waking through wheat field

Wearing appropriate clothing

Whenever possible, wear white or light coloured clothes for your summer walks. these will reflect the sun’s rays rather than attracting it. So when shopping for t-shirts bear this in mind – a white t-shirt can be used all year round, whereas a black t-shirt may have you regretting your shopping choices come July.

If your budget allows, invest a little more and buy some clothing made from fabrics that wick away sweat. These are becoming more common so you should be able to find something fairly easily.

Even better, and a little more expensive, is clothing that has in built sun protection. These tend to have at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and can be as much as 100. Choosing a long sleeved top such as this one, the Tacvasen lightweight long sleeve top with SPF 50 would be a great choice as it is also baggy which allows air to circulate more. It also comes in various colours – I’d suggest the white, either of the blues, or the grey.

Whilst getting your legs and arms exposed to the sun is tempting, if you can cover up completely with sun protection fabrics that also wick away moisture as you move, then you will benefit greatly.

A real must on a truly hot day is a hat, to keep the sun off your head. And if you are like me and appear to have less hair up top each year, then it’s so easy to burn the top of your head before you know it.

If you have an old loose cotton hat you can soak this in cold water to keep your head cool. If it’s really old you may consider cutting a few holes in it to release heat. I’d recommend removing whilst in shaded woods to give your head chance to breathe without the sun baking you from top down.

It’s quite common to see walkers with hats that have longer parts at the back that come down and protect your neck – very sensible, and if the old films about the French Foreign Legion are right then it makes perfect sense.

Bandanas are also great in the heat for keeping you cool. When you pass a stream or lake you can dip the bandana into the water and then put it round your neck or head. That will help you keep cool whilst you walk. You could even wet yours before you head off to ensure you get a good start to your walk in the heat.

Of course, don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glaring sunshine. And have you considered ditching the shoes for walking sandals – these are much more common these days and manufacturers have realised their importance.

Applying sun block

Wear a strong factor sun cream to protect you – on a really hot day then I will use a factor 30. Apply liberally all over and don’t forget to carry with you.

Once you have been walking for a while you will need to top up as sweating will rub off the cream you have already applied. You’ll also likely be rubbing your head and wiping sweat away, so it is essential for your own protection to keep this sun block topped up.

I find a sun block that comes in a spray bottle is best for easy application whilst on the move. I can quite easily top up sun block using this this, especially on certain areas such as my head, face and neck.

Walk at the cooler times of the day

This may seem obvious, but if you are used to rising late and heading off out for a walk just before or after lunch, then you will find that the sun has risen to it’s highest point and is beating down it’s rays on you.

Ideally you should set your alarm and get up and out early – there’s nothing wrong with setting out at 6 or 7 am, as that will be when the day is at it’s coolest. Of course, not everyone wants to get up that early on the weekend – hands up from me – especially after a long week in the office of early mornings and late nights.

Generally speaking it’s at it’s hottest between 12:00 and 15:00, so if you are out on an all day walk then plan to be somewhere shady or by a lake at this point. It will be a little cooler than out in the open, and you can also keep cool with the water by splashing it over you or dipping your bandana or sunhat in.

If that is you too, you may want to consider delaying your walk till the evening hours. At this time the temperature starts to drop and walking becomes a little easier.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Whilst the forecasters don’t always get it 100% spot on, generally speaking weather men and ladies are pretty good – and good enough to see what the temperature is going to be like the following day.

And that’s another tip – plan your walk the night before. If you know it’s going to be a scorcher and your best bet is going to be an early morning walk, then staying up late to watch Match of the Day or the latest horror film isn’t going to be the best preparation. Head off to bed at a reasonable time, get your walking gear ready and ideally pack a rucksack with your hat, sun block and sunglasses. That way you won’t be eating up valuable time and the sun rising more and more every minute whilst you faff around looking for stuff. Don’t forget to stick a bottle of water or two into the fridge before bed.

One thing I really want to mention is for those of you that walk with dogs. Please, please, please put their health and safety first and set off early! Yes you may want a lay in, but your dog cannot get rid of body heat as easily as us humans, so be a considerate owner and walk them before the sun gets too hot.

I lost count of the number of times I saw poor dogs slowly walking along the streets just before lunchtime last summer. Clearly they were in distress, too hot to move quickly, and yet the owners seemed oblivious. Don’t be a selfish owner – get up early, get out and back before it’s too hot, and make sure your dog has plenty of water before, during and after a walk.

Try to keep to shady areas

It’s not always possible to stay in the shade when walking any distance. However, there are things you can do that will help.

If you are in town, accept that buildings and concrete reflect heat. It is going to be hot in town, so do your best to avoid if possible. But if you can’t, then walk on the shady side of the street and avoid direct sunlight as much as possible.

If you are combining your walk with shopping, then an air conditioned shopping mall gives a much better walking experience. I am a big advocate of shopping locally and keeping local businesses going by spending my money with them, but a mall can give a much better walking experience in heat.

Ideally you take a trip to the countryside. Grass will absorb heat, although if you are in an open field you may struggle to reap much of a benefit. Seek out walks that have large areas of wooded stretches with ample shade to walk in. The trees will help keep the suns rays out.

A walk along the coast is a great option in the sun. Not only will you benefit from sea breezes keeping the temperature a degree or two lower, but you stand a good chance of meeting an ice cream man (sorry – I couldn’t resist). The only downside is that you could find certain seaside towns and destinations extremely busy. I love to go to Beachy Head and walk along to Birling Gap. In winter this can be quite desolate – in summer it’s a whole different story.

If you are at the coast, then a trip down the beach to the sea will help – you can take off your shoes and socks and have a quick paddle, and also splash yourself down with the cool water of the sea. Cooling down your feet will go a long way to lowering your skin temperature quickly.

Conclusion – How to keep cool when walking in the summmer

So there you go. I hope you find these tips helpful and that next time you are out walking in the heat, you manage to complete your walk safely and enjoy the exercise. It’s better to be safe and well to walk another day rather than make yourself ill through heatstroke and unable to walk for the foreseeable future. Common sense, avoiding direct sunlight if possible, and taking frequent breaks in shaded areas will go a long way to staying safe and healthy.

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