Most of us tend to stay indoors when temperatures drop, but there’s no need to hibernate in the gym until spring. There are many benefits to enjoying outdoor winter activities. Exercise and exposure to natural sunlight can:
- Improve mood
- Boost energy levels
- Lessen symptoms of seasonal affective disorder
Who wouldn’t want to feel better and have more energy? Winter is one of my favorite times to get out and exercise. I love to ski, run, hike, and ice-skate.
Before you grab your coat and run out the door, it’s important to protect yourself from the cold. A little planning can help you avoid the number-one danger of cold-weather activity: hyperthermia.
Here are the top three factors to consider:
It’s best to check the weather before heading out. The most important factors are wind chill, temperature, precipitation, and any dangerous conditions. Stable footing should be the top priority; avoid slippery surfaces like black ice. When possible, plan a route in your neighborhood. That way, if you do run into trouble, you are not far from home.
Always think in layers. Wear a base layer that is made of a moisture-wicking fabric. This material transports moisture away from your skin to the outer layers, where it can evaporate. A mid-layer can keep you warm by providing insulation and using the heat generated by your body. Choose a top layer that protects against wind, but allows air to circulate and moisture to escape. Depending on conditions, you may want to add these items: hat, ski mask, gloves, or sunglasses
3. Exercise Intensity.
Even the most seasoned athletes can experience side effects during or after cold-weather activity. Gradually work up to your normal activity lengths and intensities if you are new to exercising in the cold. In extremely low temperatures, consider shorter, less intense exercises. Temperatures below freezing may increase your risk of lung damage, particularly if you have asthma. If you have a preventive inhaler, bring it along. Talk to your doctor about proper usage for prevention of asthma attacks.
With preparation and warm gear, outdoor exercise is always a blast. What are your favorite winter activities? Share a comment below on what you like to do and how you stay warm!