Those who live in cold winter climates, where the temperature can often dip below freezing, may not be thrilled about venturing outside for some cold-weather exercise. People with asthma, heart disease or poor circulation, such as caused by Raynaud’s syndrome, may want to avoid outdoor exercise during frigid temperatures. However, for those in good health cold weather should not be a barrier to exercising outdoors. To avoid the risk of frostbite and hypothermia, always take the wind chill factor into consideration before venturing outdoors during extreme low temperatures. Dressing properly minimizes cold-weather risks, but when temperatures drop below 0°F, you may want to exercise indoors. Extreme wind chill that causes temperatures to dip below -15°F can result in frostbite on exposed skin in just 30 – 40 minutes. When the temperature is too low, don’t hesitate to hit the gym, put on an exercise DVD at home, or if you are lucky enough, simply do some yoga in front of a warm fireplace.
It does take a certain amount of commitment and empowerment to get out there on a wintry day. While, for many, the tendency may be to curl up indoors on winter days, studies show outdoor exercise to be a good cure for the winter blues and related symptoms of fatigue, congestion and seasonal depression. Exercise benefits include increased energy, improved mood and an immune system boost, which may help to prevent or decrease the incidence of winter colds. Dressing properly in layers, that include moisture wicking fabrics, is the first rule of outdoor cold-weather exercise. The second rule is proper conditioning. If you are not used to vigorous activity, such as running or participating in winter sports, you’ll need to start gradually to get into condition, just as you would before beginning any new exercise routine. Keep in mind that if you are looking for a natural mental and physical health boost, a restored energy level and stress relief, regular routine exercise is a good way to realize these goals.
While we may not look forward to the cold temperatures, remember the first rule of winter exercise — dress appropriately and be sure not to overdress. Dressing too warmly can cause you to overheat and perspire once you get moving. As sweat evaporates, the body cools, which can make you feel chilled. Dressing in a minimum of three layers allows you to remove them as you warm up and replace them as you cool down. As staying dry is as important as staying warm, be sure to begin with a thin layer of synthetic material that draws perspiration away from your body. Moisture wicking synthetic is best next to your skin, as cotton absorbs perspiration and keeps the dampness in, lowering the body temperature and increasing the risk of hypothermia. The second layer should be wool or fleece for insulating warmth, and lastly, a wind-resistant, waterproof, but breathable, outer layer.
Some useful hints for winter outdoor exercise include:
- Check the temperature, weather forecast and wind chill factor before heading outdoors. Use common sense to determine if the weather is too extreme to be outside for any length of time. If it’s really windy, rainy or icy, exercise indoors.
- Cover your head at all times. While experts may disagree as to how much of our body heat is lost through our heads, we can agree that keeping our heads covered prevents heat loss and keeps us warmer overall. For extra protection, wear a scarf or face covering and cover your ears too.
- To avoid getting chilled during exercise, try to stay consistent with the pace of your activity, since continually working up a sweat and then slowing down can make you more vulnerable to cold.
- Make sure to keep fingers and toes warm. No matter the temperature, the body works to maintain its internal core temperature, leaving extremities, your nose and your ears more susceptible to cold. Cold causes blood vessels to constrict, limiting blood flow to the fingers, hands, feet and toes. If necessary, wear two pairs of warm socks and consider wearing moisture wicking glove liners under mittens or gloves to keep hands and fingers warm.
- Be sure to drink water before and after any cold weather activity. Hydration is equally important in winter as it is summer. Drink, even if you don’t feel thirsty, to avoid dehydration.
- Wear shoes with good traction to avoid falls on snow and ice. It’s always a good idea to let someone know your route and when you plan to return, in case you do slip or have a problem.
- Wear sunscreen, lip protection and sunglasses to protect your eyes and face, as snow and ice reflect UV radiation, and dry winter skin is more susceptible to burning.
Whatever your motivation, get out there and play! Go skating, skiing, or sledding or build a snowman with the kids. Exercise doesn’t have be a “work” out, just do any activity you enjoy to get the physical and mental health benefits of movement. Keep exercise an essential part of your daily life and chase away those winter blues with some healthy outdoor activity.
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Badger Vanilla Bean Cocoa Butter Lip Balm by Badger Company– This very soothing, Certified Organic/Fair Trade lip balm provides hydrating relief for dry, chapped lips. Low temperature processing allows the CO/FT cocoa butter to retain its natural, health-giving properties. Flavored with organic vanilla bean. FT cocoa butter provides a sultry chocolate fragrance. Gluten free.
Grahams Natural Organic Lip Balm by Grahams Natural – Apply liberally to moisturize, condition and protect lips from the elements with nourishing organic oils and botanicals. Available in organic raspberry and organic vanilla flavors. Gluten free.
Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 by Garden Goddess Organics – This organic sunscreen is perfect for rugged outdoor use. Safe and biodegradable, this product blends zinc and titanium for powerful broad spectrum protection from harmful rays. Scent free, water resistant, reef safe and gluten, paraben and phthalate free.
Sol Creme SPF 17 by Lotus Moon – This facial moisturizer provides natural and gentle protection against UVA and UVB rays. Water based, non-comedogenic and packed with antioxidants, including at astaxanthin, turmeric and tocotrienols. Non-GMO, vegan formula.
Ward Off the Winter Blues with Exercise. https://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2012/01/05/ward-off-the-winter-blues-with-exercise
Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626
Do We Really Lose Half our Body Heat From our Heads? http://www.livescience.com/34411-body-heat-loss-head.html
How Cold is TOO Cold for Outdoor Exercise? https://weather.com/health/news/how-cold-is-too-cold-for-outdoor-exercise