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Dear Chuck, it’s been so hot lately that I can’t even think about exercising. Even early in the morning or late at night, it’s too hot. How can I keep fit if I can’t physically go outside? – Tim R., Louisville, Ky.

In July, all 50 states hit record-high temperatures, and there seems to be little cooling and precipitation on the horizon. According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2,712 high-temperature records were either tied or broken in July, compared with 1,444 last year. The heat wave has affected nearly 200 million people in the United States.

Amina Khan of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote: “Heat waves don’t just mean a few days of discomfort; a paper published in February of this year in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that mortality rates increase 2.49 percent for every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in heat wave intensity. On the bright side, heat waves that occur further into the summer appear to be less lethal – death rates increased 2.65 percent in later summer, compared with 5.04 percent for the first heat wave of the summer. That, however, may just mean that the first onslaught victimizes the most at-risk folk.”

The first key to keeping physically fit when it’s hot is common sense: Exercise inside. Better to suffer a little summer cabin fever than to impair your health and life by heatstroke. Whether you join a gym or engage in simple resistance exercises at home, when temperatures hit three digits, it’s time to take health and fitness indoors. From treadmills to the Total Gym, exercise equipment can help you target just about every muscle group. DVD motivational workout programs can provide excellent forms of cardio. Yoga and Pilates are also exceptional disciplines for the mind and body.

Of course, we know that outdoor exercise benefits mental well-being, with exposure to sunshine, fresh air and all the rest of the frolic associated with being outside.

Dr. Jo Thompson-Coon, research fellow for the Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, concluded: “The hypothesis that there are added beneficial effects to be gained from exercising in the natural environment is very appealing and has generated considerable interest. By using the data currently available to us we have added strength to the link between mental and physical well-being and outdoor exercise, but further research and longer, tailor-made and focused trials are needed to better understand this link.”

As a general rule, if you’re going to exercise or be active outside in temperatures higher than 90 degrees, I encourage water exercises or activities. The superb aspect about summer is that water can help you combine both fitness and fun for the whole family. Most activity in water also provides a low-impact workout that combines cardiovascular exercises with resistance training.

Here are 10 cool outdoor summer activities that are inexpensive and also can build up your health, fitness and marriage and family life, too (of course, remember to regularly hydrate and use sunscreen, and don’t overexpose yourself to the sun and heat).

  1. Water aerobics are offered through many aquatic centers. They are an excellent type of resistance training.
  2. Swimming in private or public pools, lakes or rivers.
  3. Water games. From Marco Polo to Frisbee to tag, games in the water provide a family with plenty of exercise and fun.
  4. River tubing or rafting. You don’t need to buy tickets for a big river excursion, just some inner tubes from your local tire shop. For fun and exercise, try to paddle with your arms or race upstream; now there’s some great upper-body training.
  5. Canoeing, kayaking or paddle boats. If you live near any body of water, for roughly $10 you can rent these pieces of upper- and lower-body “water exercise equipment.”
  6. Waterskiing and wakeboarding. If a friend has a boat, skiing and wakeboarding are fun and crazy-good aerobic water sports.
  7. Skimboarding or surfing. Rented equipment for ocean activities can provide inexpensive entertainment and exercise, as well.
  8. Sprinkler-fests. Want your kids or grandkids to exercise more without ever leaving home? Set your lawn sprinklers to go off in the afternoon, and let them run through them. Want to provide an additional priceless summer memory? Run through the sprinklers with them – with your clothes on!
  9. Water parks. When is the last time you were at a water park? An hour or two of fun there will provide as much cardio as a vigorous run, and you’ll score some major summer points with your kids or grandkids.
  10. Snorkeling. Now there’s a way to have fun, keep cool and see the underwater world. There’s no total gym like God’s global gym.

It’s no coincidence that water is invigorating to humans. We not only were in it in the womb but also are largely composed of it. We can live for only a few days without it. Throughout the course of human history, water has been used for sacred, medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

Why not also exercise and entertainment?

So get out there, get wet and have fun – all in the name of health and fitness!

For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.

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