Column 15 - Heat and Hot Showers

Original publication date: December 14, 1983

Last week again we got more snow than I really wanted to shovel. I worked hard in the morning and again in the afternoon trying to keep up with the snow, only to watch another four inches fall in the evening.

I was out again the following morning repeating what I had done the day before. Working hard and working up a sweat. It's really not hard working up a sweat in weather as mild as it has been.

Coming out of a warm house we tend to overdress forgetting how hard we'll actually be working as we shovel. The end result is often a sweaty body which catches a chill if the wet clothes are not immediately changed. A nice hot bath or shower is what we really need. Or is it?

There is no question that careful use of heat such as a bath or shower is very soothing and can result in a pleasant feeling of relaxation. Too much heat, however, especially after exercising, is overstressful and could be dangerous. If you overdo it, that nice hot bath could leave you in a heap on the bathroom floor when you get out.

Lengthy exposure to excessive heat, especially after exercising such as shovelling, produces a heat overload that can be harmful on the cardiovascular system. Your heart. It may still be beating at an exercise level and your body heat may still be elevated. Sitting in a hot bath or standing under a hot shower for a lengthy time right after exercising doesn't give the body a chance to give off some of its excessive heat to the surrounding air. Even more heat is gained from the bath or shower.

Under high heat conditions, most of our body's blood supply is concentrated in the parts of our bodies closest to the surface. This means a reduced blood supply to our internal organs including the heart and the brain. Along with the enlarging of the surface blood vessels caused from the lengthy exposure to high heat, this can lead to dizziness, sometimes fainting and serious heart disorders.

Hot showers and baths can be safe, however, and can give needed relaxation if the duration is kept between five and 10 minutes after doing any vigorous exercise.

Some things which have made health clubs so popular over the last decade are hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, and steam rooms. As with the shower and bath, the hot tub and whirlpool is hard to resist after a hard game of squash or racquetball or any exercise. They too should be used with safety in mind. Give yourself time to cool down after exercising and check that the temperature of the water does not exceed 40 degrees Celcius or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If it does, keep in mind you could be taxing your heart and should not stay in too long.

In the relatively dry atmosphere of a sauna some sweat evaporation can take place enabling your body to give off some of its excessive heat. This only helps to a certain degree and caution should be taken not to stay in too long. A steam room, however, should be avoided after exercise. Perspiration can't evaporate because of the moisture in the air, preventing any body heat loss.

After having a shower, bath or whatever, make sure the water with which you rinse yourself is lukewarm or cool. It does wonders for the heart and helps prevent the dizziness or weak muscles that result from extended and excessive heat. Also make sure your doctor is aware that you use high heat facilities after exercising if you have a heart problem or blood pressure problem.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.