It’s officially winter! Which means holiday parties, shorter days, colder temperatures, and …less motivation to stay active. Who wouldn’t prefer to enjoy holiday treats while sitting by the fireside under a bunch of blankets all cozy and warm instead of working out? The winter makes it much harder to get up and exercise.
But, exercising during winter months has multiple health benefits that are important to consider. Maintaining health routines during the cold weather months can:
- Increase energy levels1,2
- Fight the “winter blues” 1,2
- Boost your immune system1,2
- Assist weight loss 2
Here are a few easy tips to keep you motivated during the winter months!
Try a new activity2,3
Exercising during winter does not mean that you are confined the monotony of your local gym. Now is the perfect time to try an indoor sport! Indoor sport leagues can provide new friends/teammates that get you excited about exercising again.
Get creative at home3
Not interested in joining an indoor sports league? Too much of a hassle to get to the gym when it’s cold outside? Then work out in the comfort of your own home. Try a new workout DVD! Don’t have exercise equipment? Use your own body weight!
Involve family and friends
Make exercising during winter fun! Go play in the snow with the kids, take the family ice skating for the afternoon, or head up to the local mountain for a day of skiing and snowboarding with friends. Exercising will seem like less of a chore when family and friends are included!
Cold weather is not a reason to avoid all outdoor activities. You can still go for a walk, run or bike ride just like during any other season! However, there are some important safety tips to keep in mind if you plan on exercising in the cold weather.
Check the weather conditions
Check air temperature, wind chill factor, and moisture for the specific time you plan on exercising outside. If the temperature falls below zero degrees Fahrenheit1,4 or if the wind chill factor falls below negative twenty degrees Fahrenheit5, then it is best to avoid outdoor activities.
It is best to dress in layers that allow you to stay as warm as possible during your entire exercise routine. The innermost layer should be fabric that wicks away moisture to keep the skin dry1,4,5. The middle layer of fleece to provide insulation and the outer layer consists of a waterproof jacket1,4.
*Avoid wearing cotton or woven fabrics as they will absorb sweat which could increase your risk for hypothermia due to excess body heat lost.1,4,5
Protect your hands, feet, and ears
Blood flow is concentrated to the body’s core when outside temperatures are low. This can increase the risk of frostbite to hands and feet. Wear a thin pair of gloves under a warmer pair and allow extra room in your shoes for multiple layers of socks to keep your hands/feet warm and dry1,4
Also, don’t forget to stay in well lit areas, drink plenty of fluids, avoid slippery sections of the ground, and wear reflective gear. The Mayo Clinic recommends you “let someone know your exercise route and your expected return time, in case something goes wrong”.4
Most importantly, be able to identify cold-related injuries when exercising during the winter months!
Definition: Abnormally low body temperature.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Intense shivering
- Slurred speech
- Loss of coordination
- Stiffness in arms and legs
What to do: Seek Emergency help if hypothermia is suspected.1,4
Definition: An injury due to freezing that most commonly occurs on exposed skin.
Signs and symptoms:
- Loss of feeling
- Stinging sensation
What to do: Get out of the cold immediately. Don’t rub it as it can damage the skin. If symptoms persist, then seek emergency medical attention.1,4
The winter is often a time in which people put their exercise programs on hold. Hopefully these tips help you to stay motivated and warm when you’re exercising during winter!
1.Texas Heart Institute. Cold-Weather Exercise. http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/HSmart/cold_weather.cfm Accessed on December 11, 2015.
2. NHS Choices. Exercising in Winter. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Winterexercise.aspx Accessed December 11, 2015.
3. Spark People. 7 Smart Ways to Stay Active this Winter. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1594 Accessed December 11, 2015.
4. Mayo Clinic. Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626?pg=1 Accessed December 11, 2015.
5. ACE Fitness. Fit Facts: Exercising in the Cold. http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=2619 Accessed December 11, 2015.