6 January 2020

Staying fit in a changing climate

| Emma Davidson
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Junior baseball

Woden Rebels v Bandits junior baseball club playing in bushfire smoke in Aranda on 29 November 2019. Photo: File.

Canberrans love being physically active, with 90 per cent of us participating in sports, fitness activity, dance or other recreational activities. But with the changing climate comes new challenges for physical fitness.

Our bushfire season now starts earlier, and we have more heatwaves and less rain than we used to, including in autumn and winter. This means outdoor events are more likely to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Even indoor sports are not immune, as some indoor venues can also be too hot to play in during a long period of hot weather.

But there are things we can do to make sure we stay fit and healthy.

The first thing to do is drink more water to stay hydrated, as well as training during the coolest part of the day. While it can be tempting to skip a session using weather as an excuse, it’s better for both mental and physical health to be flexible and try an early morning or evening session instead.

Another alternative is to change the type or level of activity: try an indoor activity, reduce the exertion level in your current routine, or take up swimming or water sports. Indoor cricket and futsal are different games to outdoor cricket and football, which may work different muscles or develop different skills. The best form of exercise is the one we can do regularly.

Team sport managers may need to talk to their players and club about alternative venues or times. If it’s not possible to reschedule games to avoid heat, perhaps run an alternative training session in the cooler part of the day, or at an indoor venue, to maintain game fitness and keep morale up.

However, Canberra has a serious shortage of indoor venues, and outdoor ovals are struggling with the drought; in fact, they hadn’t fully recovered from the Millennium Drought (2001 to 2009) when the current drought hit hard. There will be an increased need for facilities that can manage extended hot, dry periods.

It’s also important for sports and physical activity managers and administrators to ensure they have a plan to recognise and manage heat stress in participants. Even when the temperature has not reached the upper limit for that activity to go ahead, lack of air movement or the fact that it takes place in full sun may mean that additional measures are needed to keep participants cool.

Some outdoor summer sports may need to start their season earlier in the year, take a mid-season break during the hottest part of the year, and come back in autumn to finish the season. This will put pressure on outdoor ovals used by winter sports who haven’t yet finished their season, and also reduces the time available to grounds managers to ensure pitches have time to recover between seasons at a time of year when grass can grow well.

We may find that our city needs to reassess the type, size and location of our indoor and outdoor facilities as the changing climate affects more of our lifestyle.

Emma Davidson is a lead candidate for Murrumbidgee for the ACT Greens in the 2020 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

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I think people need to harden up a bit. Yep…rare bad smoke from equally rare massive bushfires ( thanks to the geenies who stopped hazard reduction burning…..its on you….) and now after a few weeks, its all done.

Heat stress? Wear a hat and drink lots of water. Be fit. A fit individual will likely weather temp extremes better than someone who is overweight.

Thanks Emma – great article. I think we will need to see air quality minimum standards being imposed on indoor sporting facilities to prevent a false sense of security.

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