During the long winter seasons that many of us experience, it’s common and totally normal to want to stay indoors where it’s warm and cozy as much as possible. However, there are significant health benefits associated with outdoor exercise even on chilly days and all throughout the year.
To help you get outdoors while you wait for spring to arrive, here are some tips for staying safe and healthy with cold weather exercise and activities.
Warm Up Before You Go Out
It’s always important to stretch and do some warm-up exercises before you pick up the intensity, but perhaps more than ever in the winter. Before stepping out the door, get the blood flowing through your muscles by doing vinyasa flow yoga poses, jogging in place, and doing arm circles.
Dress Appropriately for the Weather
Dressing in layers is the key to exercising in cold weather because layers of clothing trap warm air between them to keep you comfortable. Put on a waterproof jacket to protect your underneath layers if it is rainy, snowing, or windy. Your hands, feet, and ears are particularly susceptible to cold weather and potential frostbite, so keep extremities covered even after you begin to sweat from working out.
Be Extra Cautious with Icy Sidewalks
Slipping on ice and snow is one of the biggest risks of exercising in the winter, so take it slow and easy if you’ve experienced precipitation and freezing temperatures in your area lately. Take small steps to test questionable surfaces, reduce your jogging pace, and use poles for extra balance when possible.
Don’t Skimp on Sunscreen
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t shining brightly and putting your skin at risk. Slather on some SPF 30 or higher sunscreen on all areas of exposed skin, especially your face, before heading outdoors for winter exercise. Also, put on some lip balm with sunscreen protection, and protect your eyes from the sun and glare off the snow with sunglasses or tinted goggles.
Staying hydrated with plenty of water is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. You might not feel thirsty outdoors in the winter, but drink water anyway before, during, and after your workouts. The signs of dehydration are harder to notice when you’re cold, but they can really affect your body and put you at risk if you’re not paying attention.
Know When to Come Indoors
However, there always comes a time to give your body a break and come back indoors after you’ve been exercising outside. For your personal health and safety, know the early warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Come back inside right away if you experience numbness and stinging sensations in your fingers and toes because these could be signs of frostbite. Symptoms of hypothermia include loss of coordination, shivering, fatigue, and slurred speech.
Refuel Your Body
Cold weather makes your body burn extra energy and calories during your outdoor workouts, which can really jump-start the fitness routine you committed to in your New Year’s resolution. But it can also make your body more quickly depleted of resources, so make sure to refuel your hardworking muscles with high-quality protein and fruits and vegetables when you come inside so that you have enough energy for the rest of the day.
Fun Winter Outdoor Activities to Try
Need a little inspiration to get outdoors on winter days? Here are some healthy activities to try that will get you through the rest winter and actually enjoy it.
- Hiking during the warmest hours of the afternoon
- Cross-country skiing
- Downhill skiing and snowboarding
- Ice Skating
- Shoveling Snow
- Volunteer cleanup efforts at your local nature trail