Exercising outdoors in any season has a number of added benefits. It reduces tension, boosts your energy level, connects you with Mother Nature and makes you lighter in the pocketbook. The winter months, though, can pose some unique health and safety hazards.
To maximize your workout and reduce your risk of injury, Henry Ford athletic trainer Lauren Rao offers these five tips:
Check the weather
If the temperature is sub-zero or there’s a severe wind chill, you might rethink your workout for the day. Below is a helpful chart to limit the risks of frostbite and wind burn. Know the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Plan your workout so the wind is at your back during the second half. That way, you’re less likely to get chilled because your exposed, damp face will be heading the same direction as the wind.
|30 – 25 degrees F
|Be aware and ready for possibility of cold injuries. Total exposure time: Max 2 hours.
|25 – 15 degrees F
|Cover all exposed skin as much as possible. Rewarm every 20 minutes for at least 10 minutes. Total exposure time: Max 60 minutes.
|15 – 0 degrees F
|Consider limiting/modifying activity to limit exposure. Rewarm every 15 minutes for at least 10 minutes. Total exposure time: Max 30 minutes.
|Less than 0 degrees F
|Cancel practice and reschedule. Move inside if possible
Because exercise generates heat, it’s helpful if you can peel off a layer of clothing as your body warms up. The key to staying dry and comfortable is in picking the right material for each layer. Start with a synthetic material like polypropylene, which keeps sweat away from your body. Conversely, cotton material stays soaked when it gets wet. Add a layer of wool or fleece for insulation, then top with a waterproof outer layer.
Protect your head, hands and feet
When the temperature drops, the body protects itself by sending blood to your core to keep your internal organs warm. However, that leaves your head, hands and feet vulnerable to the cold. Consider a pair of glove liners made of polypropylene underneath fleece or wool mittens. Once the sweat kicks in, you can remove the mittens and stick with the gloves.
A hat is a must because the head is where 30 percent of the body’s heat loss takes place. A loose scarf over your nose and mouth is also recommended to protect your lungs. Grip covers for your shoes can provide traction on icy and snow surfaces to reduce your risk for slip and falls.
Wearing reflective gear allows other people on the road to see you.
You may not feel thirsty in the cold, but it’s still important to stay hydrated with water. Replenish your fluid intake by drinking before, during and after your workout to protect the body from injury and to stay warm.
Stay safe and enjoy your workout.