Toronto (June 12, 2005) - Toronto is sweltering its way through its first heat alert of the summer while trying to breathe its way through yet another Environment Canada issued smog alert. Next to cold, extreme summer heat is the most lethal natural hazard faced by people across North America. Hot spells claim more lives than lightning, rain, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes combined.

Exercising outdoors in warm weather can be refreshing, especially after spending months inside during a long and frigid winter. Being physically active is a positive way to improve health and protect against heart disease, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis but in the summer months, when it is hot, hazy, and humid, it is important to understand how to safely and effectively exercise in the heat and smog. Overdoing it can lead to heat exhaustion, fatigue, heat cramps or even heat stroke.

"Even healthy people should take it easy during extremely high temperatures or high pollution days to avoid medical emergencies, but those with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis or people with heart disease and the elderly must be especially careful," says Dr. Gaetan Tardif, Vice President of Medicine at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Canada's largest provider of adult rehabilitation services.

Fortunately by taking precautions, the dangers of summer heat waves and smog can be reduced -- even in cities, where it is usually hotter and more humid than in rural areas.

How to beat the heat

  • Drink plenty of fluids - preferably water before, during and after exercise. Water is absorbed by the body quicker than most other fluids, and does not contain any chemicals or agents that have a dehydrating effect.
  • Exercise on cooler surfaces such as grass, dirt tracks or light coloured pavement and wear loose fitting clothing that allows sweat to evaporate
  • Check air quality reports on the weather page in your local newspaper or contact Environment Canada for air quality reports. Moderate your physical activity on "smog alert" days by substituting vigorous activity, such as running or jogging, with moderate or light activity such as walking, relaxed bicycling, stretching, easy gardening, or swimming.
  • If you must exercise outdoors when pollution levels are high, avoid exercising during rush hours. Exercise prior to 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

"If you are on any medication, check with your doctor before exercising in the heat as some medications may hinder your body's ability to regulate its temperature," adds Dr. Tardif.

About Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) is at the forefront of one of the most important and emerging frontiers in health care today- rehabilitation science. As a fully affiliated teaching and research hospital of the University of Toronto, Toronto Rehab is Canada's largest provider of adult rehabilitation services, complex continuing care, and long-term care. Toronto Rehab is advancing rehabilitation knowledge and practice through research, education and patient care. More information is available at:

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