Precautions for Cold Weather Exercise

By Terri Ross

This morning I woke up earlier than expected, laid in bed wondering if it was worth trying to go back to sleep. But then I had a thought—I would really like to go for a run. I checked the weather and it was 28 degrees outside. There once was a time when that would have been enough for me to say “forget it”, and probably not get in a workout at all, but not these days! It is perfectly safe to exercise when it is cold out, just keep these things in mind.

WEAR LAYERS – When you decide to brave the cold, choose clothes that are made of wool or synthetic fibers. These fabrics will move the moisture from sweat away from your body, which will help prevent heat loss. Make your garments easily removable so you can add and remove as your body needs. Because we lose a considerable amount of body heat through our heads, be sure to wear a hat.

PROPER FOOTWEAR – Be careful in the snow and ice. Pay attention to the wear of your shoes, and avoid areas that are still thawing. If you have them, wear Yaktrax or something similar when exercising on ice.

HYDRATION – Your water intake is always important, no matter what. Just because we are feeling cooler than normal, doesn’t mean our bodies don’t need the extra water. In fact, the cold weather means we need to be extra careful. We lose a lot of water when we exhale, even more so in the colder temperatures. It is recommended athletes drink 17-20 ounces 2 hours before exercise, 7-10 oz every 10-20 minutes during exercise, and 16-24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost in sweat after.

CONSIDER THE WINDCHILL – Wind can take a perfectly nice day and turn it into a dangerous situation, causing frostbite. Use this chart, provided by the American Council on Exercise, to determine if it is safe to venture out.

BLOOD PRESSURE – If you have a history of high blood pressure, you might want to consider staying in. When we exercise, our body uses a mechanism called vasoconstriction. This is a narrowing of our blood vessels in non-exercising organs and muscles. Cold weather also has this effect on our bodies and the double-dose could affect your blood pressure.

So, the next time you feel like getting active outside, do it! Bundle up, drink some water and listen to your body.