Exercise Outdoors in a Winter Wonderland
Try these tips to enjoy cold-weather workouts
When crisp fall weather turns to bitter winter cold, it's tempting to huddle up inside with a cup of cocoa and wait for warmer days to return. But there's no reason cold weather should stop your exercise routine, or even drive you indoors. There's plenty of frosty fun in outdoor winter exercise.
The folks at WebMD recommend you give winter sports a go. Cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowshoeing all offer cardiovascular and strength benefits, with a great calorie burn. They're also suitable for any workout personality, whether you prefer to go it alone or exercise with buddies.
If you're looking for something less adventuresome, you can also stick to your usual routines, such as walking, running and even cycling. And don't discount the health benefits of snowball fights, sledding, shoveling snow and building snowmen. Anything that gets you moving helps your fitness.
The experts at the Mayo Clinic do advise that you take some simple precautions to avoid illness or injury when exercising in chilly weather, particularly when the temperatures dip to extremes. Before you head outside for a cold-weather workout, remember:
- Dress in layers so you can strip off clothes as needed after you warm up — and pile them back on if you get cold.
- Protect your hands, feet and ears from frostbite with warm layers. Your extremities are more susceptible to cold when you're exercising, as most of your blood is pumping through your core.
- Choose indoor exercise — or even skip the occasional workout — when the weather is at its worst. Winter exercise is more dangerous when it's raining or snowing, when it's below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and when wind chills are extremely low. If you do exercise in these conditions, take extra precautions to keep warm.
- Wear appropriate winter-weather accessories, like footwear with traction for snowy conditions, reflective clothing for early-morning and late-night workouts, and a helmet for skiing or snowboarding.
- Remember your sunscreen and sunglasses. Contrary to common belief, it's easy to get too much sun in the winter, particularly if you're outside in the snow or at high altitudes.
- Plan your exercise route carefully so you wrap up with the wind at your back. This helps prevent the wind from chilling you, particularly if you're sweaty.
- Drink plenty of water, just like you would with summer exercise. You might not feel parched, but you're still losing fluids through sweat.
- Monitor yourself through your winter workouts to ensure you're not showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite.
With these simple tips you can enjoy a safe, fun outdoor workout routine, whatever the weather.