Exercising in the Cold
December 21, 2012
Tips for braving the winter weather
When the temperature outside starts to drop, we tend to either head for the gym or take a break from exercising as the "winter blues" set in. But exercising outside in the cold can actually cure the winter blues, and it has a positive effect on our immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic. As long as you take some precautions before going out in the cold, there's no reason why you have to give up your usual exercise regimen during the winter months. Here are a few tips I've gathered:
Dress right – Layer your clothes and be careful not to dress too warmly; clothing that becomes wet from sweat can chill you once you cool down, putting you at risk for hypothermia. Remember, exercising makes you hot; believe it or not, you can actually feel up to 30 degrees warmer than the outside temperature once you start exercising. By layering your clothes, you can remove them as you feel hot. The first layer should be made of polypropylene or a similar fabric that draws sweat away from your body. Fleece is a good choice for the second layer because it provides insulation. And the third layer should be waterproof.
Drink lots of fluids – Even in cold weather you lose body fluids when you sweat. You should drink at least 2 cups of water about two hours before exercising. Then, about 15 to 30 minutes before you start, drink another cup of water. While you exercise, drink about ½ to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. And don't forget to drink enough water after exercising to quench your thirst. In general, try to drink eight to 12 cups of water a day to stay hydrated.
Protect your head and hands – You've heard your mom say it: You lose body heat through your head. That's why it's important to always wear a hat in the cold. And don't forget your hands — gloves will protect them from cold, but mittens are better because they group your fingers together and collectively keep them warm.
Wear sunscreen – Skin needs protection just as much in the winter as in the summer. Make sure you wear sunscreen that is 15 SPF or higher; you can get sunburned when you exercise in the snow and at high altitudes. Be sure to also use lip balm with sunscreen.
Last, but not least, watch the weather forecast – Let's just say that cold, windy days can be dangerous; the wind will pull heat from your body and if you get too cold, your body temperature can drop extremely low, causing hypothermia. You can also develop frostbite. So it's best to stay indoors on the harshest winter days.