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What can you do to better acclimate to the heat and sun?

Arizona Heat
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 13:24:55-04

TEMPE, AZ — Last year, Phoenix had the hottest summer on record and the heat claimed the lives of more than 300 people, marking a 60% increase in deaths in just one year.

As more and more people move to the Valley, the ABC15 Arizona In-Depth team wanted to find out what new or long-time residents can do to be ready for the intense sun and heat.

At a Chandler park recently, ABC15 chatted with a family.

"You've lived here your entire life, right?" I asked 7-year-old Naymar.

"Yeah," he answered.

I asked what he thought of the heat.

"It's very exhausting and very hot," said Naymar.

It seems like that description sums up the scorching sun best.

"We're just out enjoying the outdoors before we go in and recluse for the heat of the day," said mother Tess Ryan-Abreu. "And we usually go out in the morning and in the evening, so we can go out in the cool times and then we use the pool in the afternoon."

Ryan-Abreu has three boys who were out nice and early the morning ABC15 caught up with them on their bikes. Her kids were born here and she has been in the Valley for nearly a decade.

"We have family in Flagstaff and they're desert babies," Ryan-Abreu explained. "They struggle in the cold up there. Yeah, I think they'll acclimate a little better over the years than I will."

So, is it possible to get used to these temperatures? We took that question to Arizona State University Assistant Professor of Sports Nutrition with the College of Health Solutions Floris Wardenaar.

"Everyone can acclimate," said Wardenaar. "And I think the advantage what you have here, especially when you just moved, is it's still dry. So, sweat-rate efficiency is very high."

Wardenaar has been studying heat in athletes, which is also something we covered back in 2018. But, if residents are not professional sports players preparing for a big game, what can they do to beat the heat?

"If you want to acclimate, then your core temperature needs to go up," Wardenaar explained.

His research determined that if a person works out for 30 minutes or so, the best advice he has is to not run inside to the air-conditioner once the workout is completed. He suggests staying outside or in a warm place afterward to raise your core temperature.

"Don't go out for 60 minutes if you're not used to it," Wardenaar said. "Just start with 30 minutes and see how you deal with that."

Overall, health and hydration are important too.

The more a person takes care of their body with health and fitness, Wardenaar has found, the better the body copes with heat.

"A simple way of measuring if you are in balance is to go on a scale in the morning and at the end of the day and if there is a huge deficit -- more than two pounds -- then probably you are not drinking enough," he explained.

Wardenaar also helped develop a urine color chart that can educate people on their hydration level. Click here to view that.

While Wardenaar does support being outside and building up sun stamina, he stresses that people have to know their bodies and recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. He said an overheated person will feel hot and feel thirsty. However, the thirst will not go away. He also said an individual will realize they are no longer sweating, and they could be nauseous.