Do you burn calories sweating? 10 summer exercise myths debunked!

Summer is a great time to get out and walk, but there are many summer walking myths that can prevent you from getting the most out of your summer walks. Nothing beats a walk in a shaded, natural setting on a great day with the sun shining. As the weather heats up, however, you’ll need to stay cool, stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.

We’re covering whether you burn more calories by sweating (you don’t) plus we’re busting 9 other summer walking myths for happier summer walking.

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1. You’re Burning More Calories If You Sweat More

Woman sweating from summer exercise
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Since you sweat more during intense exercise, you might think sweating itself burns additional calories. When you sweat, your body releases water and salt (among other things), but it doesn’t actually burn calories to do so. The reason that you sweat during exercise is because physical exertion raises your body temperature. As you sweat, the evaporation of that sweat on your skin helps cool your body down. The water that you sweat out is replenished by water that you drink or take in through food. Forcing yourself to sweat without proper hydration can cause extreme dehydration, which can be very dangerous.

2. You Don’t Need Sunscreen On A Cloudy Day

Sunburn and sun damage is caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. While clouds can block sunlight and make you feel cooler, even thick cloud cover only blocks a small percentage of UV light from actually hitting you. The remaining UV light on a cloudy day can easily cause sunburn on exposed skin, even if you’re not feeling like you’re getting roasted. You should still wear sun protection even on cloudy days. If you don’t like wearing sunscreen, you can look into a good hat and some light clothing that can help block UV light instead.

3. Once You Feel Thirsty, it’s Too Late to Hydrate

Man drinking water bottle during hot summer exercise
Maridav / Shutterstock

While it’s a good idea to drink water before you feel thirsty to ensure you stay hydrated, it doesn’t mean that once you’re thirst it’s already too late to get hydrated. Many people seriously underestimate their body’s efficiency. The first signs of thirst could mean that you’re only slightly dehydrated, but you still shouldn’t ignore those signs. If you plan to exercise in hot weather, make sure to take water with you or stop and hydrate when possible.

4. Folks Who Tan (Or Have Dark Skin) Don’t Need Sunscreen

Melanin, the pigment in your skin that causes your skin to darken when exposed to sunlight, provides protection from sunburn. People with darker skin tones have more melanin, which decreases the risk of sunburn and also many skin cancers. People with dark skin tones can get sunburned and can get skin cancer, however, as melanin does not prevent all UV damage. You can still get skin cancer from excessive sun exposure regardless of how dark your skin is, and sunburn is still possible. It is best to always use sun protection regardless of your coloration.

5. Only Water Or Sports Drinks Will Hydrate You

Athlete drinking a sports drink after a run
GaudiLab / Shutterstock

While water is a great way to hydrate, your body can absorb water in many forms. There’s a myth that coffee or soda will dehydrate you. While caffeine is a mild diuretic (it makes you go to the bathroom more frequently), there’s no evidence that it actually will cause you to lose more water than you take in. Alcohol is an exception, however. Alcohol is a diuretic, and not drinking enough water with alcohol will cause you to become dehydrated. The glucose in sugary drinks may help replace electrolytes after you sweat a lot, but it’s usually not necessary for most walks. Water in any form will work fine for hydrating you, including soup, milk, juice and juice in fruits. Do be aware that liquid calories are still calories, so it’s still a good idea to avoid soda even if it doesn’t dehydrate you.

6. You Have To Drink A Minimum Of 8 Glasses A Day

While 8 glasses of water a day is a good rule of thumb, some people will require more water and others potentially less. Men need more water intake than women, and factors like hot weather (due to sweat) and other factors can influence how much water you need. Remember that 20% of all your necessary water intake comes from food, and the 8 glasses (or 64 ounces as it sometimes shown) is an arbitrary number. Most people are not in danger of drinking too much water (unless you intentionally force water and don’t go to the bathroom), so drinking more water is usually harmless at worst and helpful at best. Drinking water when you’re thirsty is usually fine as well.

7. You Can Indulge In Your Favorite Summer Snacks All You Want If You Exercise

Woman eating energy bar on park bench
Dejan Dundjerski / Shutterstock

Plenty of people get caught up in thinking that if they take a long walk in the morning, the calories they eat at the summer barbecue won’t count. This isn’t true. It is easy to underestimate how much you are eating and overestimate how many calories you are burning. It’s also simply easier to eat calories than it is to burn them off. You can easily eat a 200+ calorie energy bar in seconds, while it might take you an hour of walking to burn it off.

8. Walking barefoot is better for your feet

It is true that shoes, particularly ill-fitting ones, can squeeze our feet and put them out of their natural alignment. Walking barefoot can actually be great for our feet if you’re indoors or on a soft, safe surface. Once you get outside, however, walking barefoot puts your feet at risk. Shoes are good protection against fungal foot infections, cuts, and burns from walking on hot surfaces. While our ancestors toughened their feet over time, going barefoot on concrete, asphalt, or even dirt can be hard on your soles if you’re not used to it. jk,mSerious walkers should find well-fitting shoes that support your arches and cushion your feet.

9. Your Body Acclimatizes To Heat During A Heat Wave

Female walker holding thermometer - hot weather concept
Thaninee Chuensomchit / Shutterstock

The human body can adapt to extreme conditions, but it takes time. According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), it can take 7 to 10 days of constant exposure before your body becomes better at shedding heat and can handle the hotter temperatures. However, heatwaves don’t necessarily last that long, and you will be out in the heat before your body gets used to the new temperature. It is better to take your walks for the cooler mornings or evenings or find an indoor, air-conditioned place to walk during a heatwave.

10. Cotton is the Best Choice for Summer

When walking in summer heat, look for breathable, moisture wicking fabrics. While cotton fabric can help you stay cool, absorb sweat and let your skin breathe, it’s not the only choice. Since cotton tends to absorb moisture, it can get heavy and stick to you if you sweat heavily on long walks. If the temperature suddenly drops, wet clothes can leave you feeling very cold. For base layers, like undershirts and underwear, synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from your body are often good choices.

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