Many of us will be vowing to develop an exercise routine for the new year, and this is great for everyone’s health. There are, however, some caveats when you start exercising in cold weather because the elements pose some safety risks. This doesn’t have to be discouraging, though. There are a few precautions that you can take that will keep your new exercise routine safe throughout the winter.
Check With Your Doctor
Exercise is a good idea for everyone, but exercising in the cold can pose problems to people with certain conditions. Exercising in cold weather can trigger an asthma attack if you don’t have a cover for your mouth and nose, and the cold can cause chest pains in people with heart problems. If you have asthma, Raynaud’s disease or cardiovascular disease, you should ask your doctor about any precautions that you should take.
Remember The Appropriate Safety Equipment
There are many fun outdoor activities you can only do in the winter, such as snowboarding and skiing. When you participate in them, don’t neglect the helmets and other padding. You can easily lose control on the snow and run into hard objects.
You will also need to add reflective clothing to your workout equipment if you exercise outside. It gets dark earlier and gets light later, so you can easily wind up jogging after sunset if you keep to the same hours.
People remember to layer on the sunscreen in the summer, but forget that the sun is just as active in the winter. You can get a sunburn from the UV rays reflecting off the snow, so apply sunscreen that shields you from UVA and UVB rays. Use goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare while you are at it.
Dress In Layers
Keeping your core warm is important to stave off cold injuries. This means dressing so that you don’t lose warmth through sweat, but won’t overheat from exercising. According to the Mayo Clinic, the best thing to do is put on a layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, add a layer of wool or fleece, and then top it all with something breathable and waterproof. This should allow you to take off layers as you heat up without freezing from your sweat evaporating.
Look Out For Frostbite And Hypothermia
Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops to abnormally low levels. It can sneak up on you in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with most cases occurring in temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity and the wind can make it worse.
Symptoms to look out for are:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of Coordination
If you have these symptoms, get somewhere warm and drink warm non-alcoholic drinks. If symptoms persist, get to the hospital immediately.
Frostbite is when a body part freezes, generally from being exposed to 32 degree or lower temperatures. The symptoms to watch for are:
- Tingling or stinging sensation in the body part
- Body part going numb
- Body part becoming red and then waxy grey
The best way to avoid frostbite is to wear hats and mittens, exercise your extremities and not wear anything that restricts circulation.
Avoid Icy Areas And Change Your Exercise Plans According To The Weather
Frozen puddles and black ice develop when the weather gets icy, and many of your favorite running trails can become slick. Be extra careful about your footing when jogging outside, and try to avoid exercising where surfaces are slippery.
While most of us would not attempt to exercise in storms, we may underestimate how cold it is on a normal day by not considering the wind chill factor. When the wind blows over our skin, it cools us more rapidly than the ambient air alone, and the temperature of the air can be lowered once you add the wind speed. Definitely take the wind into account when deciding whether you should exercise outside.
Keep Your Feet Dry
If your feet stay wet for a long time, you run the risk of trench foot. This is where the skin of your feet falls off because you kept your feet in water that is just above freezing for a very long time. It isn’t really that common now because most people can change into dry socks and shoes every day and air dry their feet often. If your feet swell, hurt and turn cold and blotchy, then you will want to see a doctor. The best way to prevent this is to wear good fitting socks and waterproof shoes when exercising, and to change out of wet socks as soon as you can.
Exercising in cold weather has some risks, but taking a few precautions can make your routine safe. With care, your resolution to get more active can be the most healthful commitment you make in the coming year.