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Too hot or cold? What’s the best temperature for exercise?

It’s that crazy time of the year here in central Pennsylvania when the temperature can vary by as much as 25 to 30 degrees in a single day. These temperature fluctuations may present challenges when it comes to many things in our everyday lives, but if you are someone who likes to get outside and exercise, you need to be prepared.

Temperature preference while working out varies from person to person, but science has found that most people feel their best when the air temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Since we have no control over Mother Nature, there are some strategies you can employ to stay comfortable and safe.

Colder weather

When exercising in colder conditions, it’s best to dress in layers that you can remove as you heat up and put back on once your body temperature cools back down. If it’s cold enough, you should consider wearing proper gear on your face, ears, hands and feet. A good rule of thumb is to take the Boy Scout approach of “always be prepared,” and more importantly, the “you can always take gear off” philosophy.

People with health conditions such as asthma or heart problems should talk to their doctor before working out in colder temperatures.

Hot weather

Common sense dictates that as the air temperature goes up, so will your body temperature as you exercise. This can put extra stress on your heart and lungs, even more when the humidity is high. So how do we handle the heat? Your body has natural cooling mechanisms, mainly sweating, that will adjust your body temperature as you exercise. To keep those systems running optimally, you need to stay well hydrated, wear loose, moisture wicking clothing, and know your limitations.

Remember working out in hot weather can be very dangerous, so please take precautions. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Optimal temperature

If you’re not a fan of the heat or the cold, then heading to the gym or exercising indoors is a great way to make sure the temperature is always in the right place. Research from Duke University found the ideal temperature for working out is between 68 and 72 degrees. If you are exercising indoors, you should strive to keep temperatures in that range. Trust me, as someone who operates a fitness center, I know that personal preference varies greatly and some people “run hotter or colder” than others.

According to Gerald Endress exercise physiologist and fitness director at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, 70 degrees is the optimal temperature for most people. To help heavy sweaters feel cooler in a 70 degree environment, he recommends using a personal fan to stay cooler.

So, when it comes to exercising in varying temperatures take all the proper safety precautions and play it safe. While the best temperature for you will vary, wearing proper clothing, drinking plenty of fluids, and most importantly knowing your body and limitations should make exercise safe and enjoyable.

Craig Turner serves as general manager of Mount Nittany Health Fit for Play.
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