Minneapolis/St. Paul was deemed the healthiest, fittest city in America earlier this year by the American College of Sports Medicine’s most recent American Fitness Index. More parks per square mile, a high number of bicyclists (second only to Portland, OR) and better access to fresh food via farmer’s markets are factors that set our cities apart from the rest.

Because of summer’s long-awaited arrival, there’s no doubt people will be taking full advantage of the sunshine and warmer temps now, moving their exercise outdoors and hitting the roads, sidewalks, and parks on foot and bike in large numbers. There’s just one thing to be cautious of: the heat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s #1 weather-related killer is heat-related illness, which accounts for roughly 700 deaths every year.


The most serious of all heat-related illnesses, heat stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death or permanent disability if not treated right away. Heatstroke occurs when the body loses its ability to control its own temperature. The body stops sweating, and therefore can no longer cool itself down. In only 10 to 15 minutes, body temperature can rise to over 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat exhaustion is brought on by excessive sweating and occurs when the body loses a high amount of water and salt. It can precede heat stroke.

Knowing what to look for can help you recognize you’re in trouble before you pass out. Here are the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion according to the CDC. Keep in mind that adults over the age of 65, people with high blood pressure, and children are more prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion.


High body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit).
Hot, red, dry skin or profuse sweating.
Throbbing headache.
Slurred speech.
Confusion, dizziness.
Rapid and strong pulse.
Possible unconsciousness.

Slightly elevated body temperature.
Heavy sweating.
Extreme weakness and fatigue.
Fast, shallow breathing.
Muscle cramps.
Cold, pale, and clammy skin.
Fast, weak pulse.
Nausea or vomiting.


If you feel like you have heat exhaustion, move to a cooler environment, loosen your clothing and lie down if possible. Apply cool wet clothes or paper towels to your body and sip water. There’s no shame in asking someone nearby for help. Seek professional medical attention of you are vomiting persistently or symptoms get worse.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you see someone suffering from heatstroke, call 911 immediately for help. Take them to a cooler location either indoors, under the shade of a tree, or to an air-conditioned environment. Begin to reduce their body’s temperature using whatever is at hand, such as a cool cloth, garden hose, or best of all, a cool bath. But do not give them fluids.

Tips for Staying Cool and Avoiding Overheating

Of course the best protection against heatstroke and heat exhaustion is prevention. Here are some tips to help you make the best choices.

Rethink the really hot days. There’s nothing wrong with taking your exercise outdoors, but on the really hot days (especially when there is a heat advisory) it might just be better to go to the gym or exercise at home. Keep an eye on the temperature and plan ahead.
Don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day. Peak hours for heat are between 11am and 5pm. Stick with mornings and early evenings.
Wear comfortable, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes and allows for airflow. (The light color reflects heat.)
Keep hydrated, drinking plenty of water before, after, and during your workout.
Replenish your body’s electrolytes and salt intake while exercising. There are plenty of products on the market for this. Research to find the best one for you.
Know your body’s limits and take breaks.
Limit the length of time you exercise, especially on hotter days.
Wear sunscreen. Even on cloudy days you can get a burn, so start slathering.
Choose shady areas, paths, or sidewalks that avoid direct sun exposure.
Use the buddy system. Exercising with a friend is more fun and has the added benefit of being able to watch out for one another.
Get acclimated. Allow your body to get used to the day’s temperature before starting to exercise. It’s less shocking to the system.
Take signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion very seriously, responding immediately.