Working Out In Cooler Weather

As the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler, you may be tempted to give up your regular exercise routing of walking or biking for the warm comfort of home. Don't!

As the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler, you may be tempted to give up your regular exercise routine of walking or biking for the warm comfort of home. But in order to stay heart-healthy, you need to avoid hibernating for the winter and stick to a regular physical activity schedule. There are lots of activities you can do indoors, but if you’re heading outside, take the proper precautions when the thermometer dips to keep yourself safe.

Cardiac patients should always check with their healthcare provider before heading out because exerting yourself in the cold weather puts an extra strain on your heart. Don’t do any kind of cold-weather outdoor activity until you get the goahead from your doctor.

Stay warm while outside by dressing in layers that you can take off as you begin to sweat then put back on as you cool down. Wearing layers helps trap heat, and they form a kind of insulation against the elements. Avoid wearing cotton clothing because once cotton gets wet with sweat, the moisture gets trapped and will actually make you feel colder. Your first layer should be something that wicks moisture away from your skin, like the newer high-performance fabrics. Then, add a layer of fleece followed by a thin waterproof layer on top.

Don’t forget about your hands and feet, which tend to lose heat rapidly. Wear a thin pair of gloves under a heavier pair and thermal socks or two pairs of regular socks. Your head needs protection, too—wear a hat, headband or headscarf and make sure your neck and ears are covered. As much as 50 percent of your body’s heat is lost through your head and neck, and ears are particularly prone to frostbite. You may also want to cover your mouth with a scarf or head mask to help warm the air before you breathe it.

Wear sunscreen on any exposed parts of your body. You can get sunburn just as easily in the winter as in summer, especially if there’s snow on the ground.

A cold day can make your muscles tighter, so it’s important to gradually ease your heart and body into a workout. Be sure to stretch and warm up before starting any physical activity so you don’t put extra strain on your muscles.

Don’t forget to hydrate when you’re out in the cold. Just because your sweat evaporates quickly in cold weather doesn’t mean you’re not losing water. Drink plenty of water before, during and after you head outside. Avoid alcohol—contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t warm you up. It actually gives you an initial feeling of warmth because blood vessels in the skin expand, which then draws heat away from the body’s vital organs. Stick to water.

Avoiding hypothermia is your main goal. Hypothermia occurs when your body can’t produce enough energy to keep its internal temperature warm enough, and your body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be deadly, so if you experience any symptoms of hypothermia—lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering or sleepiness—get inside immediately and get warm as soon as possible.

There’s no need to become a couch potato when the weather cools down. With a few precautions, you can enjoy physical activity in the great outdoors during winter.

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