By Beverly Burmeier | Edited by Elena Doxey
Don’t let the cold weather of winter keep you from your exercise routine. Breaking away from the cozy comfort of a warm fire can do your body good. If walking or running is your thing but you’re not up to the pace, then you may want to try other outdoor winter activities such as hockey, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. These are fun ways to enjoy the outdoors while still getting the exercise you need to stay fit. The key, though, is to take the necessary precautions.
Here are some ways to prepare and stay safe and warm when the temperatures plummet.
Dressing appropriately can make any cold-weather activity more pleasurable, while protecting you from the potential hazards posed by low temperatures.
Avoid wearing a heavy coat that will make your body sweat. You will end up feel colder in winter weather since the moisture will sit on your skin. Plus, sweating may also lead to dehydration. Instead, it’s recommended to dress in layers, so you can take off pieces as your body generates heat. The innermost layer should be made of synthetic material that allows evaporation of moisture. Cover that layer with a sweater, followed by an outer shell or jacket that is windproof and waterproof, yet breathable.
And don’t forget about your other accessories. Be sure to wear footwear with soles that can provide traction on snow, ice, or uneven surfaces, along with waterproof outerwear such as a hat and gloves to keep you dry. A hat is especially important since you can lose a lot of body heat through your head.
Fuel Your Body
If you’re not used to vigorous exercise, then winter probably isn’t the best time to start a fitness program – unless you have access to an indoor facility. But even if you continue to follow a regular routine, it’s important to know your limits and to listen to your body. If you experience muscle fatigue, you can’t keep up your usual pace. Or, if you feel thirsty, then it’s time to reevaluate your exercise regime. Cold and wind can zap energy quickly, so if you’re feeling any of these effects, be sure to find a warming center or indoor area where you can recover.
What you put in your body is just as important as what you put on it. A hot cup of coffee of hot chocolate might sound like a good idea, but experts advise against it since caffeine may accelerate dehydration. Instead, stick with drinking water. It’s the best way to stay hydrated and keep the body performing efficiently.
Your body needs fuel before your workout, but experts caution against eating protein before exercising, as blood will go to your digestive system rather than to your extremities. Instead, try eating fruit. It’s a good pre-workout snack since it is usually digested within an hour. Then, after exercise, eat a healthy meal to replenish protein and carbohydrate stores.
Hypothermia is a real risk that can happen to even the healthiest individuals. It occurs when your overall body temperature falls below a safe level. This can even happen in temperatures as warm as 50 degrees if you’re exposed to it for extended periods of time, such as when running a marathon or cycling long distances. Be alert to symptoms such as shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. If they occur, go indoors and warm yourself gradually, and avoid extreme heat.
Frostbite is another cold-weather danger, where skin and underlying tissues begin to freeze. The first sign of frostbite is a numb or painful sensation. If your skin begins to turn white, seek medical help right away. This is an indication of restricted blood flow. You can prevent frostbite by always wearing a hat, scarf and gloves in very cold weather.
Also keep in mind that cold weather doesn’t protect you against sunburn. You probably don’t think of applying sunscreen in this season, but it’s almost more important to do so in winter than summer, because snow or ice can reflect more than 80% of ultraviolet radiation (compared to between 10% and 15% for water and beach sand in summer). Wear a hat with a brim that provides a protective shadow over your face. And don’t forget to protect your lips: Using a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 (30 is even better) can also help prevent painful cold sores around your mouth.
Your immune system also needs protection. Zinc and the probiotic S. salivarius K12 help maintain a healthy upper respiratory tract. And ARA-Larix olive leaf and andrographis support proper immune function.
Winter is the ultimate season where you can venture outdoors and seek out activities that you typically can’t do at any other time of year. With some preparation and cold-weather planning, you not only can get your exercise, but you can awaken your senses with the invigorating air of the season.
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