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This article appeared in Aware (July/August 2003), the magazine of the American Women’s Association of Hong Kong. The concepts are relevant for exercise in any hot and humid climate.

How to Exercise Safely in the Hong Kong Summer

by Dr. Patricia Bowmer

Ah, the glorious days of Hong Kong summer. Days when your shirt is wet with sweat the moment you walk out the door, and all you’ve done is hail a taxi. When walking from your air-conditioned apartment to an air-conditioned store can feel like a stroll through molten lava. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated exerciser hang up her running shoes.

Here are some tips on how to exercise safely and comfortably in Hong Kong, so you feel fantastic come the dry season!

The most important thing to remember is that your body has just two ways to cool itself: sweating and vasodilation (dilatation of the surface veins in the skin). At 38 degrees, still air and high humidity, both processes grind to a halt, and you just get hotter and hotter. Sound familiar?

Here’s how to make it better:

  1. Stay hydrated. We can sweat away two to three litres of water during intense exercise in the heat, and become dehydrated. This can lead to your body becoming dangerously overheated. A rise in core body temperature can lead to severe embarrassment (remember that woman on Bowen Road a few weeks back!), heart failure, and even death. So drink before, after and even during exercise.
  2. Get fit and get lean! The fitter you are the quicker you sweat, and the better able you are to keep yourself cool. Leaner people also cool off more easily, because fat acts as an insulator.
  3. Go early, go hard. Go midday, go home! The blazing sun might feel amazing on the beach, but while you are running in a Hong Kong summer? I don’t think so. Be like a cat – wake up at dawn and run around, nap in the midday, and jump around a lot at night.
  4. Get in the gym! When it is extremely hot and humid, indoors might be your best option. Ah – feel the cool rush of the air conditioning, run on a treadmill to lively music, or join some aerobics classes. Try a new fitness machine with a cool metallic water fountain in clear sight.
  5. Swimming anyone? Swimming is a great, meditative form of exercise. Kowloon and Victoria Parks both have large public swimming pools. Many more can be found through a search on the internet.

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