The pros and cons of heated workouts

Heat makes the body more limber, but it also makes it easier to push yourself too hard

The pros and cons of heated workouts

Illustration by Guille Manchado

With sweltering outdoor temperatures and classes like heated spin, hot pilates, and, of course, hot yoga on the rise at Atlanta’s boutique fitness studios, you’ll have no trouble working up a sweat this summer.

According to Dr. Jordan Tate of Southern Pain and Spine, high-temperature workouts are ideal for “making muscles looser and soft tissues more pliable, so you get more benefit from the exercise faster.” If you’re looking to hit the weights first thing in the morning without a long warm-up or to find a deeper stretch in that postwork yoga class, the warmer, the better.

Heat makes the body more limber, but it also makes it easier to “overextend muscles or push too hard because the effort doesn’t feel strenuous in the moment,” explains Atlanta-based certified personal trainer Julia Caban. She adds that, while you often get your heart rate up higher and burn more calories in warmer temperatures, the benefits are negligible if you can’t keep up the same intensity as you would in a cooler environment.

Tate suggests moving outdoor activities to cooler mornings and evenings and sticking to shady spaces in the heat of the day. In fact, working out when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees presents a risk of heat stroke, especially in vulnerable populations. She also advises taking frequent breaks during classes like heated interval training or hot yoga.
And don’t forget to hydrate, as much of the weight you’ll lose during a hot workout is actually from sweat. Tate recommends drinking eight to 16 ounces of water or electrolyte water and sports drinks before heated exercise. When outdoors, Caban suggests slathering on sunscreen, keeping your head covered, and wearing sweat-wicking clothing.

As with any fitness regimen, listening to your body is key. “If you’re feeling excessive fatigue, muscle cramping, or have a cold, clammy sweat, that’s usually a sign you are overdoing it,” says Tate. “Just as you would gradually acclimate with any other kind of training program, it’s important to take baby steps to get the most benefit from the heat.”

This article appears in our August 2022 issue.