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Health & Wellness

5 Tips For Exercising in the Cold

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Exercising in the cold can be fun and safe as long as you prepare and take precautions before heading out.

Exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature. Also be sure to check road or walkway conditions. “If it’s slippery outdoors it’s easy to break a hip if you fall,” says Linda Phypers, RN, director of health services at Wake Robin, a continuing care retirement community in Shelburne, VT. Experts provide the following tips for staying in shape when the mercury drops.

1. Watch your step

To help prevent falls when walking outdoors, wear shoes with non-skid soles, says Phypers. “In addition, stay only on sidewalks and areas that have been cleared of snow and ice and use handrails when available.” Also, avoid going outdoors after dark or in hazardous weather conditions.

2. Move your walk indoors

Head to the mall, says Phypers. “Get there early to avoid shoppers and give yourself a great, indoor walking course.” Try the stairs for added activity and a greater challenge.

3. Go easier

Your body needs to work harder to maintain its core temperature in cold weather.
–Joanne Donoghue, PhD

Cold weather creates greater demands on your heart. “Your body needs to work harder to maintain its core temperature in cold weather,” says Joanne Donoghue, PhD, registered clinical exercise physiologist  at NYIT Center for Sports Medicine.

“Therefore, the normal route you run at the same pace in mild weather is not the same energy expenditure as when you run the same pace in cold weather.” Since cold weather causes a narrowing of the arteries, if you have an underlying cardiac condition exercising in the cold can be dangerous. Always check with your doctor and seek warmer, indoor exercise options on cold days.

4. Layer it on

When you exercise you generate heat, which can make you feel warm, says Josephine Dluogpolski-Gach, MD, internist with Loyola University Health System. “Layers allow you to take off a piece of clothing to help your body temperature regulate.” Make the first layer a synthetic material to keep sweat off your skin. The second layer provides insulation, which fleece or wool provides nicely. Lastly, choose a waterproof but breathable material for your final layer. Note: Avoid cotton, which stays wet against your skin.

5. Keep hydrated

Although we think a lot about hydration in the summer, it's just as important in the winter months, says Dluogpolski-Gach. Sweating can lead to dehydration, muscle fatigue and weakness, even in cold weather.

Always watch for signs of hypothermia, which include cold hands and feet, swollen face, pale skin, shivering, slurring words and acting confused. Call 911 right away and get the person wrapped warm until help arrives. Exercise safely this winter by following these easy tips.

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