- Stay safe during cold-weather exercise
The following tips can help you stay safe — and warm — while exercising in the cold.
- Check weather conditions and wind chill
Wind and cold together make up the wind chill, a common element in winter weather forecasts. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even with warm clothing
Getting wet makes you more vulnerable to the cold. And if you get soaked, you may not be able to keep your core body temperature high enough.
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia
Immediately get out of the cold if you suspect frostbite. Slowly warm the affected area — but don't rub it since that can damage your skin. Seek emergency care if numbness doesn't go away.
Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia. Older adults and young children are also at greater risk.
Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.
- Dress in layers
Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin.
Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
You may need to experiment to find the right combination of clothing for you based on your exercise intensity. If you're lean, you may need more insulation than someone who is heavier.
Keep in mind that stop-and-go activities, such as mixing walking with running, can make you more vulnerable to the cold if you repeatedly work up a sweat and then get chilly.
- Protect your head, hands, feet and ears
Wear a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material (such as polypropylene) under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold and then remove the outer pair when your hands get sweaty.
Consider buying exercise shoes a half size or one size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And don't forget a hat to protect your head or headband to protect your ears. If it's very cold, consider wearing a scarf or ski mask to cover your face.
- Drink plenty of fluids
You can become dehydrated in the cold from sweating, breathing, the drying power of the winter wind, and increased urine production, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather.