Temperatures are on the decline and winter is just around the corner. If you prefer to exercise outdoors, it’s important to understand the potential risks associated with cold weather exercise and how you can keep yourself safe.
Exercising outside during winter poses some health risks, including suppressing the body’s immune function and an increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia. When combined with precipitation, the cold weather becomes even more dangerous, as roads and sidewalks can become slick, putting you at risk of slipping and falling. Cold weather exercise at high altitudes may increase the risk of heart attack, which is why the American Heart Association recommends avoiding sudden physical exertion in cold weather, especially for people with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease.
Although there are some risks associated with outdoor exercise during winter months, don’t let the weather be an excuse to skip your workout. Follow these tips to keep yourself safe while exercising outdoors in cold weather.
Cool temperatures in mornings and evenings call for multiple layers to help you stay warm. As your body temperature rises during your workout, remove outer layers. After your workout, as you begin to cool down, put those layers back on.
Certain fabrics such cotton hold moisture in, which will keep your skin cool. For the layer closest to your body, wear moisture-wicking fabrics to keep sweat off your skin.
Body heat escapes through the head and neck but wearing a hat or headband and a workout-friendly scarf can help hold that heat in, keeping you nice and warm.
Drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout is just as important during the winter as it is in the heat of the summer. Avoid sports drinks that are high in sugar (they are really only beneficial if you’ve been working out more than 90 minutes).
It’s always safest — and more fun — to work out in groups or pairs. Find a friend with similar goals to be your workout buddy. As an added bonus, an exercise partner will also help hold you accountable and keep you on track.
Stretching before a workout allows your muscles to get warm before a hard effort. Be sure when stretching that you’ve taken some time to warm up, as cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury. Active, dynamic stretching is most beneficial for improving blood flow to your muscles.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and know when it’s time to call it quits and move indoors. If you begin to experience any symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Exercising in cool or cold weather can be refreshing and invigorating, but it’s important that you always make safety a priority. Remember, before beginning any exercise routine to consult with your physician.