If you are one of the many people who enjoy exercising outdoors, winter weather can really get in your way with it’s snow and cold temperatures. Despite the challenges the weather can present, exercising outside also can really be a cure for those winter blues, and has positive effects on the immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic, so there is no reason you could not get in a good winter workout, as long as you are careful.
Ask Your Doctor
For many, as soon as the weather temperatures spike downward, so does their outdoor exercise program. But it does not have to, and continuing to exercise during the cold weather months can have many benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, almost anyone can exercise outdoors during the winter, even those with asthma or heart problems, you should first check with you doctor if you have any concerns and to make sure she approves of the idea. Ask your doctor if you have any activity limitations or if you should not perform certain activities.
Many cold weather outdoor exercise enthusiasts make the mistake of dressing too warmly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because exercise generates heat, you could feel up to 30 degrees F warmer than the outdoor temperature, once you get going. But when you start to slow down and the sweat on your body begins to dry, you can begin to feel chilled. One solution is to dress in layers and remove them as you need to. The first layer should be something made of polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Fleece makes a good second layer, as it provides insulation, and the third layer should be something waterproof.
You can lose body fluids through sweat even in cold weather, so it is important to stay hydrated, the University of Alabama says. To remain optimally hydrated, try to drink eight to 12 cups of water a day, and at least 2 cups of water about two hours before exercising. Then, drink 1 cup of water about half an hour to 15 minutes before exercising, and 1/2 to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. It is just as important to stay hydrated after exercise, as well, and to drink enough water to satisfy your thirst.
Protect Your Extremities
It is important to wear a head covering when exercising in cold weather, as up to 50 percent of body heat is lost through your head, according to the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Gloves will help prevent your hands getting cold, however, mittens are better if you have them. Apply sunblock of 15 or higher, which will help protect from sunburn that can occur when exercising in snow or high altitudes, the Mayo Clinic suggests. Also, wear a lip balm that contains sunscreen.
Watch the Weather Forecast
Cold temperatures combined with heavy winds create a wind chill, and it is often best to stay indoors on these days, suggests SparkPeople. Wind pulls heat away from your body, which makes it difficult for your body to stay warm. In addition, if your body becomes too cold, you are at risk for developing hypothermia, a condition that causes an extremely low body temperature, and can be dangerous. Also, avoid icy sidewalks and streets. These conditions are hazardous and can cause serious injury.
If you suspect you have frostbite, which is characterized by paleness, numbness or a loss of feeling, and is especially common on the face, fingers and toes, it is best to get of the cold as quickly as possible and into a warmer environment, the Mayo Clinic advises, where you should begin to slowly warm the affected area. However, if numbness occurs, you should seek emergency care. Take precautions against this condition by warming your hands and feet every 20 to 30 minutes while you are outside.
- Mayo Clinic: Exercise and Cold Weather
- University of Alabama: Cold Weather Exercise Tips
- University of Virginia: Tips for Cold Weather Running