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Use Singapore’s hot temperatures to your advantage: Working out in the heat may have the same endurance benefits as training in high altitudes, according to a new study in Frontiers in Physiology.
When exercising above sea level, your body must boost its red blood cell count to accommodate the lower oxygen content in the atmosphere. This increases the amount of blood your heart must pump with each beat, and the amount of oxygen you can deliver to your muscles, explains study author Ben Lee, Ph.D., physiology laboratory technician at University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
The result: You can go faster for longer. And now, Lee’s team has discovered that training in hot temperatures at sea level leads to a similar outcome.
For the study, participants biked at a light intensity for 60 minutes in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius. The cyclists saw as much improvement in both their VO2 max—how efficiently your body takes in oxygen—and speed as they did while biking miles above sea level.
Not only does heat cause your body to produce more red blood cells, but it also forces your heart to send more blood to your skin surface to dissipate the heat, explains Lee. Do this often enough, and your heart can work more efficiently with each beat.
What’s more, cyclists who trained in high heat saw a 7 percent increase in their VO2 max and power when they worked out in cooler temperatures, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
While the U.K. researchers only studied cyclists, Lee speculates that working out in heat may help you improve in other endurance sports like running.
How can you replicate these results? Most gyms are kept at around 20 degrees Celsius. So your best bet is to skip your indoor run or ride, and take it outside.
But keep your intensity light. The heat instantly elevates your breathing and heart rate, making the activity feel more challenging than it would be in lower temperatures.
On an exertion scale of 1 to 10, aim for around a 4. You should be able to breathe through your nose and hold a conversation.
Go into your workout well-hydrated, and monitor your thirst the entire time. Lee suggests drinking whenever you feel thirsty throughout your workout.
By: Rachael Schultz