Maintain hydration during exercise: From joint health to sun exposure, Dr. Maja Gray has answers

Dr. Maya Lundborg-Gray, M.D.

What are some easy ways to get in exercise now that summer weather is here?
First, change your mindset. Don’t look at exercise as exercise. Think of exercise as leading an active lifestyle, which you could do solo or with your family and friends. Physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy. Performing active chores at home such as walking the dog instead of letting the dog out and doing yard work are ways we each do this already. If you are fortunate, walk or bike to work. Now that the sun is out and weather is warm get outside and move.

What are some good ways to stave off dehydration without sugary sports drinks?
The best way to stave off dehydration is to drink before, during and after you exercise. Water is important at all times, but especially during summer months as it keeps the body from overheating. Your muscles generate heat when you exercise. Sweating allows your body to get rid of heat. Ensure that you are aware of your body’s nutritional requirements if exercising at more extreme levels. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks because they tend to pull water from the body and promote dehydration. Also, ensure that you wear appropriate clothing, including hats, and clothing with wicking capability.

I do a lot of running, particularly on the pavement, in the summer. What are some steps I could take to minimize joint damage from this pounding?
Although easily accessible, pavement is a hard, unforgiving surface. Abruptly switching from a treadmill during winter months to pavement can be a shock to your muscles and joints. Start gradually by running on the grassy, softer surface alongside the pavement or, better yet, stick to dirt roads or wooded trails. Wear appropriate running shoes with proper support and a good tread to handle gravel, dirt roads and slick trails. You want a shoe with a gripping sole so you feel confident moving over uneven surfaces. The best advice is to stay off pavement and enjoy other surfaces for running.

I spend a lot of time in the sun and on our boat in the summer. Should I be concerned about skin cancer even if I regularly wear sunscreen? How big of a factor is genetics versus lifestyle?
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that skin cancer is the leading preventable cancer. Sun exposure is the major known environmental factor associated with the development of skin cancer. This disease is largely preventable through a proper, safe sun regimen that includes daily application of sunscreen. People of all skin colors and types are susceptible to harmful ultraviolet rays that damage the skin and lead to early aging. Ultraviolet rays reach the Earth even on cloudy and cool days. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB ray protection with a SPF of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen before you go outside and reapply every two hours and after you are in water. Remember to protect your lips, nose, hands and feet. Wear hats and use shade for further protection. There appears to be a family predisposition to certain skin cancers. If you or a family member has had skin cancer, routine skin assessment by a dermatologist is advised.

Is it true that drinking hot beverages like tea can actually make you feel cooler during the hottest months?
The logic behind this claim is that hot tea makes you sweat and sweating cools you off. Scientists believe there are thermo sensors lining the throat and mouth that might trigger the sweating mechanism. I believe the problem in the logic lies with thermodynamics. The amount of heat lost by sweating and evaporation will probably not exceed the amount of heat gained by the hot drink. The extra heat makes blood vessels near the skin dilate to help you cool off and then becomes warm and flushed, an unwanted effect. Hot tea will make you sweat, which will increase your cooling. But I think I would rather reach for a cold glass of unsweetened ice tea over a hot cup of tea.

Are there any health advantages to eating produce from farmers markets versus buying it from a grocery store?
The whole farmers market experience is a fun one. Most people who shop at farmers markets do so because they enjoy seasonal foods, fresher foods and a variety of foods. One can often purchase organic foods, pasture-raised meats, range-free eggs and poultry and handmade farmstead cheeses and breads. It is a place to meet neighbors and a place to enjoy outdoor walking while getting needed groceries. Additionally, those who shop at farmers markets do so to personally support our farming community. The prices tend to be lower as the production process is shorter, products travel less distance and middlemen have been eliminated.

After spending even a few hours out in the sun, I get incredibly fatigued. Is this normal and, if so, are there any good ways to combat this?
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are heat/sun related disorders. Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt during excessive sweating. The elderly, those with high blood pressure and those who work in a hot environment are prone to heat exhaustion. Symptoms include excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps and fast or shallow breathing. First aid includes immediate rest in cool, shaded or air conditioned areas; drinking plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages and taking a cool shower or sponge bath. Heat stroke is much more serious and occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rapidly elevates, the sweating mechanism fails and the body cannot cool down. The consequences can be deadly. Symptoms include hot, dry skin, hallucinations, chills, headaches, fevers and confusion. First aid includes calling 911 and immediate transport to the hospital, moving the patient to a cool, air conditioned area and immediately cooling the patient off by spraying cool water.

Dr. Maya Lundborg-Gray, M.D., is a Watertown resident and emergency medicine physician. She is president of North Country Emergency Medicine Consultants. This column is provided for informational use only and not intended as medical care. See a licensed medical providor to address any health concerns.