With holiday eating, fewer daylight hours, and cold weather, winter can be a weight loss plan’s worst enemy. But it doesn’t have to be! As long as you make the right preparations, there’s no reason why you can’t stay fit year-round. Just make sure you’re aware of the dangers cold weather exercising can pose, and follow our tips for the safest and most effective workout possible.
It’s important to take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Before you start your winter workout routine, learn more about the dangers you face.
Cold temperatures make our muscles less limber, which means we’re more prone to sprains and strains than usual. That’s why it’s extra important to warm up before exercising in winter. Ten minutes of brisk walking can be a great way to get your body moving and prepare for more intense exercise. You can also stretch indoors first, so you feel fully ready to face the cold.
If any of your joints need extra help staying warm and limber during exercise, try using a hot/cold therapy brace. Just pop it in the microwave for targeted heat therapy.
We usually associate dehydration with hot weather, but the truth is that it's one of the hidden dangers of winter. Don’t forget that the coldest weather also tends to be the driest. When you exhale and see a cloud of vapor leaving your mouth, moisture leaves your body. Over time, this moisture loss can lead to dehydration, especially when you’re breathing heavily.
That’s why it’s important to prioritize hydration when exercising in cold weather. A good rule of thumb is that an hour of exercise needs 16 ounces of water to stay hydrated.
If you need a way to stay hydrated while at home, a humidifier may be just what you’re looking for.
Prolonged exposure to cold weather increases the risk of suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. Normally, our bodies will send warning signs like shivering to signal the need to seek warm shelter. However, when we’re exercising, we may not notice our bodies' warning signs and run the risk of causing long-term harm. Especially when sweating, cold temperatures can do real damage. Always make sure to check the temperature before heading outside to work out, and know your limitations.
While all of the dangers listed above should be taken into consideration, it’s frostbite and hypothermia that pose the greatest risk. We are at the greatest risk of these conditions when the temperature falls below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on windy days, even warmer temperatures can pose a risk.
Ultimately, your best way to stay safe is to pay attention to the weather before going outside and know your comfort level. Generally, 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe range with proper protection.
On the coldest days, you may need to settle for working out indoors. Luckily, there’s a whole range of exercise equipment that can help.
Winter can be the perfect time to continue your regular exercise routine. Just make sure to follow these tips to stay safe.
More than anything else, it’s important to know your limits for cold-weather workouts. While some may enjoy a run on a 15-degree day, it may mean a health risk for others. If you’re not sure about your cold tolerance, play it safe and build a winter workout gradually.
Especially for seniors, it’s crucial to be prepared for unforeseen dangers when exercising in cold weather. The best way to cover all your bases is to tell a friend or family member when you’re going out. That way, if anything happens, they’ll be ready to lend a hand.
Temperature is crucial, but don’t forget to pay attention to wind chill too. Once wind chill drops below negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can harm your skin in as little as half an hour, even through clothing.
When dressing for wintertime exercise, the problem is more complicated than just heat retention. In addition to keeping your body at the right temperature, you also want to manage moisture buildup as you sweat. Excess sweat can be uncomfortable, but it can also pose a serious health risk as it chills your body
That’s why it’s crucial to dress smart. The layers of clothing closest to your skin should be made of synthetic materials designed to wick moisture away from the body. Stay away from cotton, which absorbs sweat and sticks to your body. Polyester, nylon, and polypropylene are better options.
Dressing appropriately for cold weather can be tricky. Too much clothing and you risk sweating too much. Too little and you get cold. The answer is to dress in layers, so you can take off or put on layers as needed. Over time, you’ll get a better idea of how to dress appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to aim for feeling a bit chilly at the start of your exercise, as you’ll warm up over time. As your body warms up, simply take off your layers and tie them around your waist
Don’t forget to choose your layers based on the intensity of your workout. You don’t want to put on many layers before an intense workout only to take them all off again ten minutes later.
Since you can’t take off your socks and shoes while exercising outdoors, it’s important to choose the right footwear. Compression socks help keep your feet dry with moisture-wicking material, while also ensuring proper blood flow to your feet, ankles, and calves.
In addition to your winter coat, you’ll also want to make sure your hands, feet, and ears are nice and warm for your workout. Again dress in layers, wearing a pair of thin gloves made of a wicking synthetic fabric with some heavier mittens over them. For your ears and head, you can pair a light headband with a heavier hat.
While you can’t dress your feet in layers, you can make sure to have winter-appropriate footwear. Stick with running shoes that have a good grip on the bottom. If the soles on your pair are worn out, it may be time to replace them.
Sunscreen isn’t just for trips to the beach but is a good way to protect your skin year-round. If your neck or cheeks are exposed to the sun while you’re out running, make sure to protect them with UVA and UVB-blocking cream.
It’s generally recommended to exercise during the daytime, to avoid any visibility-related accidents. However, if you do exercise at night, make sure to wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible to motorists and other pedestrians.
Especially for senior fitness enthusiasts, warming up before exercise is crucial. It allows your muscles to get limber before they’re pushed to the limit, reducing the risk of injury. It also improves blood flow, letting your lungs deliver oxygen to your muscles even more efficiently.
However, remember to take a bit of extra time to warm up in winter. Cold temperatures make our muscles more stiff, so expect to take an extra five or ten minutes before your body is ready for action. Make sure to focus on the part of the body you’re working out. If you’re going for a jog, start with leg, hip, and ankle exercises.
As mentioned above, dehydration can be a serious risk when exercising in cold weather. Luckily, you can learn to retain moisture by breathing correctly. To retain as much moisture as possible, try breathing through your nose. If your workout is too intense for this, you can also wrap a scarf or bandanna around your face to keep as much water vapor as possible.
While exercising in winter certainly poses a few challenges, getting in your regular dose of cardio doesn’t have to be a hassle. By staying aware of the dangers and following the tips listed above, you can stay fit, healthy, and motivated year-round. Try getting started this year, as your local temperatures begin to drop.