Experts reveal the surprising benefits of exercising in the heat

These surprising benefits of exercising in the heat may change your feelings towards a sweaty summer workout

The benefits of exercising in the heat - woman running towards the sun
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the hot weather comes around the last thing on our minds is a sweaty workout, especially in a surprise September heatwave. However, fitness experts have revealed there are actually several benefits of exercising in the heat. 

Many of us quite happily rush to an air-conditioned gym during a heatwave, eager to feel that cool air on our faces whilst we squat or tackle the stair-master. But, if you’re open to an outdoor session (perhaps you’re wondering if you burn more calories in the heat?) then you might be pleased to hear that it can help you out in many ways.

But, of course, there are some strict safety precautions to be considered along with all the amazing health advantages to be had. Heat stroke should never be a result of our workout routines, especially as it's relatively easy to learn how to keep cool in the summer. So, why is exercising in the heat so great for us? 

What are the benefits of exercising in the heat? 

1. Improves cardiovascular fitness

By taking our cardio workouts outside in warmer temperatures, our bodies are forced to work harder. Award-winning personal trainer, Amanda Place, explains the effect outdoor training has on our hearts. She says, “Exercising in the heat causes your heart to work harder to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles and regulate body temperature.” 

“This increased demand strengthens your cardiovascular system, enhancing heart and lung function over time," says Place, who is also the founder of Sculptrition. A strengthened cardiovascular system can mean better endurance, stamina and overall cardiovascular health which is important to prioritise as we get older. 

2. Increases the amount of calories burned

If your workout goal is to burn calories during your session then a workout in the hot weather may be the trick for you. Increasing the temperature of our environments when we work out means our body needs to work harder to regulate its internal temperature. 

Encouraging our bodies to do this extra work increases our heart rate, which means we burn more calories as our bodies work to cool us down. “This extra effort can lead to a higher metabolic rate during and after your workout, helping you burn additional calories and promote weight loss," Place says. For those looking to streamline their workouts and learn how to lose weight without exercising every day, this could be the ideal opportunity. 

The benefits of exercising in the heat - woman cycling in the sun on a field

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Enhances performance and endurance

It's no secret that the harder you work out, the better you get at it. Well, working out in the heat is no exception to this rule and progression in your fitness is one of the benefits of exercising in the heat. If you exercise in higher temperatures in consistent amounts, your body's functionality and performance can improve over time. 

Despite the discomfort you may feel during your first outdoor summer session, fighting through the sweat can massively level up your fitness in the long run. Place says, "Training in heat conditions forces your body to adapt by increasing sweat production, improving thermoregulation, and enhancing your body's ability to cool down efficiently." 

It's important to listen to your body when pushing it to new limits, however. Should you begin to feel even the slightest bit dizzy or nauseous then stop your workout, rest in a cool space immediately, and be sure to hydrate. 

The benefits of exercising in the heat - woman holding water bottle to her head

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Gives you a boost of Vitamin D

Many of us may spend our days cooped up inside (especially in the UK during the winter months) so when it comes time to work out in the summer, use the opportunity to soak up the vitamin D . Relocating your workouts to a sunny spot in your local park, taking a run through town early in the morning as the sun is coming up, or taking a dip in the heat at your local lido can do the world of good both physically and mentally.

The personal trainer is also quick to stress the benefits of what a little vitamin D exposure can bring to our lives. She explains, "Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health, supporting the immune system, and regulating mood. By combining exercise with sun exposure, you can maximize the benefits of both physical activity and vitamin D production."

Whilst a little bit of vitamin D is good for us, it's important to be protected from the sun too. It's a good idea to find a facial sunscreen you'll actually want to wear for your workouts - just be sure it doesn't have any of the four sunscreen ingredients to avoid. We should also limit the amount of time spent in direct sunlight, so short workouts in shaded areas work best. 

5. Builds up your heat tolerance

If you struggle to simply function in warmer weather or don't know how to sleep in the heat then working out outdoors may actually be the solution you need for your problems. It turns out that heat tolerance is something you can train your body to get better at, and so it's one of the benefits of exercising in the heat. 

Heat can affect us all differently, especially if we're not used to it, so Place recommends regular exposure to warmer temperatures. She says, "Your body learns to adapt and become more efficient at managing heat. This acclimatization process can result in a lower heart rate, reduced perceived exertion, and improved performance in hot conditions." 

Again, it's important to take all precautions when trying this out. Firstly, Place suggests timing workouts during the cooler parts of the day. This way, even on the hottest days, your exposure to peak heat is minimised. It's also a good idea to dress appropriately for both the heat and for your chosen workout. For example, you might like to switch your leggings for a pair of the best running shorts and your regular trainers for a breathable pair of the best running shoes for women

The benefits of exercising in the heat - women smiling in front of sun in workout gear

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Improves your mental adaptability

Working out in hot conditions is not only a stress on our bodies but on our minds too. Even just the thought of working out during a heatwave, when you're main concern is trying to figure out how to keep your bedroom cool, feels like a challenge in itself. 

However, this challenge is great for developing our mental fortitude and adaptability. "The ability to stay focused, maintain motivation, and overcome obstacles can extend beyond your workout and positively impact other areas of life," Place explains. Consistently training in the heat can overtime improve our mental toughness and prepare us for other difficult physical or mental challenges elsewhere in life. 

Once again, our wellbeing is the highest priority so it's worth checking in with ourselves throughout our workouts. No need to push too hard! Also if you still need help with that stuffy bedroom we've collected a few tips and tricks for how to cool down a room without AC during a heatwave. 

Is it better to work out in the heat? 

The benefits of exercising in the heat are clear here, but there's no need to switch up your regular workouts for a sauna when the cold finally comes. While there are advantages to be had exercising in the heat, the risk to reward balance is constantly moving depending on the temperature and your own personal tolerance.

Speaking to Dr Kerry Aston, she is quick to highlight the numerous potential risks that come with over-exerting ourselves in hot weather. She says, "Exercising in extreme heat can lead to dehydration, leaving you feeling worse and delaying your recovery from your session." 

The best temperature to work out in is between 20 to 22 degrees, according to Dr Aston, who is also the Founder of The Movement Medic. "This range allows you to enjoy the benefits of exercise while ensuring that your body's cooling mechanisms are not overwhelmed," she explains. 

If you're still wanting to get your sweat on, there are certain workouts best suited for the heat. To help you adapt to hot weather, Dr Aston recommends interval training or circuit workouts as they allow for more rest and hydration breaks. She also suggests finding shaded areas to exercise in so that your exposure to the sun and heat is at a minimum. 

Considering all these conditions, why not give swimming as a workout a go for what's left of the summer? It's a great exercise to enjoy during the heat as it provides a whole-body workout all whilst keeping you cool.

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.