Preparing for Winter: Exercise in Cold Weather
Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Finding the time, the energy and the motivation to exercise during the warm summer months is easier than doing so during the winter. But cold weather doesn't have to mean the end of your exercise. Below are some tips for continuing an exercise program during the fall and winter months and some things to watch out for to help keep you safe.
Exercise outdoors. It might be cold, but that doesn't mean you have to huddle inside. The fresh air and natural light will help lift your spirits and give you more energy (and reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.) When going out into the cold, help stay comfortable by dressing in layers. This gives you the option to remove some of the layers if you get warm. You might even want to start out with warm clothes by placing them in the dryer a few minutes. Feeling warm and toasty when you first go outside can help you stay warmer (or at least feel warmer.) If you are taking a walk or a run, choose routes that are sheltered from the wind.
Join a gym. If you can't make yourself head into the cold to exercise, join a gym and work out while staying nice and toasty. A gym is also great for days it is rainy or snowy. Many gyms have assistants to help you set up a program that won't overwork you at first.
Work out at home. Working out at home gives you the option to stay in the comfort of your own home but still getting exercise. If you are disciplined, you can create your own exercise routine. If you need someone to help guide you through your exercise program, use one of the many exercise videos on the market. An at-home workout gives you the flexibility of working at your own pace and your own time schedule. You can exercise without special equipment or purchase equipment to help give you a work-out.
Check out the local mall. Many malls are open early, before the stores open and provide a way to get a brisk walk in before starting your day. Check with your mall for their hours.
Participate in winter sports. Taking up a sport lets you have fun and get exercise at the same time. Some great winter sports include skiing, ice skating or snowboarding.
As with any exercise program, variety helps keep your interest. You might exercise with a video at home one day, take a walk at the mall the next and head to the gym the next day. Changing your routine will help keep you motivated. Remember, too, exercise doesn't need to be done all at once to be effective. If you only have time for a 15 minute walk around the mall, make the most of it and then fill in later with 15 minutes of yoga at home.
Cold Weather Safety
If you do choose to exercise outdoors in the winter, take care to stay safe. If you begin shivering, your body is telling you it is time to get warm. Shivering is the body's way of trying to generate heat to keep warm. If you begin shivering, find some shelter, even if for a short time.
Frostbite - Keep yourself covered to avoid frostbite. Frostbite happens when superficial tissues, such as those on your face, ears, fingers and toes, freeze. Symptoms of frostbite can include: pain, burning, numbness, tingling, skin turning white, peels, turns hard, itches or becomes grayish-yellow. If you, or someone you are with, are experiencing symptoms of frostbite you should get to someplace warm, remove clothing from the area and apply warm, moist compresses. You should never rub or apply direct heat to frostbite.
Hypothermia - Hypotherrmia occurs when your core body temperature drops. Symptoms include: shivering, confusion, numbness, sluggishness, slurred speech, muscle stiffness, vision problems. If you, or someone you are with, are experiencing signs of hypothermia you should immediately find warm shelter and use blankets, extra clothing or body heat to warm the person.
Making sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather is the most important way to protect yourself from frostbite or hypothermia. Layer your clothing, keep your head, your face and your extremities covered and dry.
Other risk factors for cold weather problems are dehydration and alcohol use. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids as stay away from alcoholic beverages if you will be out in the cold weather.
Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp