Cold Weather Doesn’t Have to End Your Exercise Routine

December 20, 2010 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

The cold winter weather can discourage even the most motivated exercisers, and make it all too easy to pack away your workout gear along with your warm-weather clothing until spring. But you don’t have to let cold weather spell the end of your exercise.

With the following tips, you can stay fit, motivated and warm when the weather turns chilly (but if you have certain conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, check with your doctor before you work out in cold weather):

Dress in layers

First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.

Protect your hands, feet and ears

When it’s cold, blood flow is concentrated on your body’s core, leaving your hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin pair of gloves under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Don the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold and then remove them if your hands begin to sweat. Consider buying exercise shoes a half-size or one size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And don’t forget a hat or headband to protect your ears, which also are vulnerable to frostbite.

Pay attention to weather conditions and wind chill

Exercising when it’s cold and raining can make you more vulnerable to the cold. If you get soaked, you may not be able to keep your core body temperature high enough, and layering won’t help if your clothes are wet.  Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. If the temperature dips well below 0 F (-17.8 C) or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor activity instead, or take extra precautions if you choose to exercise outdoors anyway.

Choose appropriate gear

If it’s dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing. To stay steady on your feet, choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls, especially if it’s icy or snowy. Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Consider using chemical heat packs to warm up your hands or feet.

Remember sunscreen

It’s as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer — even more so if you’re exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 30. Use a lip balm that contains sunscreen and protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.

Drink plenty of fluids

You need to stay well hydrated when exercising in cold weather just as you do when exercising in warm weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you’re not really thirsty.

Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia

Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears, but it also can occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia. Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency care if you suspect frostbite or hypothermia

These tips can help you safely — and enjoyably — exercise when the weather turns chilly. But as you exercise during cold weather, continually monitor how your body feels to help prevent cold-weather injuries, such as frostbite. Consider shortening your outdoor workout or skipping it altogether during weather extremes, and know when to head home and warm up. Also, be sure to let someone know your exercise route and your expected return time

Source: Mayo Clinic

Entry filed under: Exercise, Safety.

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