Table of Contents
- Why should you workout outdoor in winter?
- How can you dress appropriately for winter outdoor workout?
- What do you need to take very seriously when exercising outdoors in winter?
- How can you recognize the early signs of frostbite?
- Who should avoid outdoor winter exercising?
- Care to know more tips on how to exercise in winter?
Let us point out some obvious, yet often neglected, facts: working out decreases stress and anxiety, improves overall health, and keeps your body young and energized.
For those who work out regularly, no season or climate changes will make any difference: they will not skip a workout.
However, for those who always seek excuses to skip gym training or fitness or Pilates, winter work out is not even an option. There are more reasons you need to know that will encourage you to work out in winter.
Why should you workout outdoor in winter?
First of all, the fresh air is very beneficial for your body and mind.
According to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, outdoor exercising decreases frustration, tension, and depression.
There is also a biological reason that supports outdoor exercising: in the cold, our body is working out harder and the production of endorphins is even higher, which makes us happier and relaxed.
Natural light is also a reason for outdoor exercising; it fights depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Finally, in winter, you will burn more calories.
A new study by Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt of Maastricht University Medical Center, published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, explains how cold months and exposure to cold air increase the amount of energy body has to expend to keep the temperature up.
“Because 90% percent of the time we are exposed to indoor conditions, health aspects of ambient temperatures warrant exploration. What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature?”
Now, when you know the advantages of exercising in cold weather, whether you run, jog or walk around the neighborhood, it is time you consider a winter workout. And if you decide to go outside, and leave that cozy and warm calorie-gaining atmosphere, this is what you need to know before you step your foot outside.
How can you dress appropriately for winter outdoor workout?
Many scientists say that if you are warm enough, and used to exercising, there is no temperature you can’t work out in. However, you need to know how to dress properly.
Dress in three layers: avoid heavy cotton materials that absorb sweat and use lightweight synthetic material, add another layer of wool, and top it with water-repellant and wind-resistant material.
Wear light clothing, as it gets dark sooner in winter months. Do not dress too warmly.
Wear a hat, always.
Wear gloves to protect your fingers from frostbite.
Cover your face with a mask or scarf when the temperature is below freezing.
Wear sturdy footwear to prevent slips and falls on snow and ice.
Drink plenty of water; remember that dehydration is sometimes difficult to notice during cold weather.
Check the temperature and the forecast.
Tell someone the running route.
What do you need to take very seriously when exercising outdoors in winter?
There are some potential dangers. Freezing temperatures means a higher risk of hypothermia and frostbites. Once the temperature is below 20 degrees, you need to protect your skin. Such a temperature can cause severe damage to your skin.
The most vulnerable parts of your body are your cheeks, nose and ears, but hands and feet are easily affected as well.
How can you recognize the early signs of frostbite?
Loss of feeling, numbness and stinging sensation are the early signs. If you happen to start experiencing these sensations, you need to get out of the cold immediately.
Remember: you should not rub the affected area; rubbing can cause skin damage. It is unusual to develop frostbite while working out because frostbites are common when people are not able to move and the temperature is very low, with the hard wind, for a longer period of time. However, you need to be cautious.
Another potential danger is hypothermia. When your core body temperature slips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, you will be in danger. Due to the loss of heat (through your skin and your head), your body is compensating with shivering because the increased muscle activity generates body heat.
As the core temperature drops, the electrical activity in the most cold-sensitive organs, such as the heart, brain and lungs, slows. As the temperature drops, the organs will stop “working”. If you suspect hypothermia, you need to call for emergency help.
Symptoms of hypothermia are intense shivering, loss of coordination, fatigue and slurred speech.
Finally, you can slip and fall on the ice patch. Thus, appropriate shoes are necessary.
Who should avoid outdoor winter exercising?
Exercising in cold weather can be dangerous to people who have asthma, heart problems, or exercise-induced bronchitis.
Cold air and weather can cause chest pain that indicates poor blood flow, and it can trigger asthma attacks.
Care to know more tips on how to exercise in winter?
Plan your routine, think about your running, avoid open roads and paths near water and always stay hydrated.
“When the snow falls or when it gets icy out, the natural thing for a runner to do is to increase their stride width (so they run with their feet a little further apart) and they decrease their stride length. They take more steps per kilometer, they take shorter, choppier steps”, said Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic.
“Stretching is also important because when you decrease your stride length, you’re taking shorter, choppier steps, you’re going to be using your hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your hip) and you’re going to be using your hamstrings and your glutes (the muscles in the back of your hip and your leg) a lot more.”
Exercise smart, do not do four miles, like in summer, start with two miles.
“If your goal was to run 5Ks, for example, but your body is telling you that either it’s too cold out or you’re starting to get injured, there’s no reason why you can’t shorten that to a 2K or 3K run. We want runners to listen to their bodies and they can make good decisions based on that.”
If you are not a running type, you can go skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, or just walking.
Whatever you do, winter exercising is very beneficial for your body and health.
Dugard, M. (2011). To Be A Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking on a 5K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place). Rodale Books.
Nimmo, M. Exercise in the cold. Journal of Sport Science, 2004.
Image credits: 123RF Stock Photo