Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 19:59:29-05

I always talk about the importance of exercise because I see firsthand how an inactive lifestyle is associated with poor health. 

But it’s winter and I’m sure many of you think it’s too cold to even think of exercising outdoors.  

But you can still safely participate in many fitness activities like running, soccer, skating or skiing, as long as you plan ahead.

Dressing in layers is best because after you start moving, you’re going to generate body heat. Layers makes it easier to remove clothing as your body starts warming up. 

Be sure to wear warm socks and gloves as these help protect your toes and hands from frostbite. 

Any exposed skin is also susceptible to frostbite so watch your cheeks, nose and ears for warning signs like redness, numbness, or a stinging sensation.  

Wear sunscreen, lip balm, a hat, and don’t forget water as you can become dehydrated even in the cold due to sweating.

To help keep you more comfortable while working out, here are my prescriptions:

  1. Don’t wear cotton as your first clothing layer as it stays wet after you start sweating. Wear a thin layer of synthetic material because it draws sweat away from your body.
  2. Wear exercise shoes a half size larger. This allows room for thick warm socks.
  3. While your exercising, breathe through your nose and not your mouth. That way the air is warmed up when it hits your lungs. 
  4. Cold, rainy weather increases your risk of hypothermia because your body will lose heat faster. Wear water proof clothes and head indoors if you start shivering or feel confused.

If you think you have frostbite or hypothermia, be sure to get medical attention immediately. 

Before heading out the door, check the temperature and wind chill factor. Extreme cold air can penetrate clothes and that internal warm layer of air is gone. 

It’s best to stay indoors when wind chills are extreme.

Most people can still exercise throughout winter - unless you have health issues like heart problems, asthma, or Raynaud’s disease – then you should talk with your doctor first. 

So don’t be discouraged by the cold weather. Following my precautions can help keep you safe while enjoying physical activities outdoors.