Tips for Safely Exercising During Winter


With public gyms less accessible or appealing, outdoors is the alternative, but exercise becomes more of a challenge, especially as we enter peak seasonal conditions and storms. Here are some tips for safe winter exercise.

  1. Check the temperature and wind chill first.

It’s essential to know your environment and what conditions you will be dealing with. It is important to dress appropriately, but remember that exposed skin could be susceptible to frostbite.

When the wind chill reaches -25 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can occur within 15 minutes. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), when the air temperature is 5 degrees Fahrenheit if the wind is gusting at 30 mph or higher, frostbite can occur within 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Anytime the temperature is -8 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, it’s best to stay inside, WXII 12 reports.

  1. Dress in 3 layers

When you dress in 3 layers, it provides better insulation from the elements. The perfect number of layers is three. These help to trap air, which serves as insulation.

The first layer against your skin should be wool or fabric such as Polartec or Dryline, which are designed to move sweat away from the body, releasing and evaporating in the air.

Removing layers to reduce heat

The other primary purpose behind dressing in layers is to remove them as you heat up and put them back on when you cool down. A little sweat isn’t a big deal, but heavier sweating is. The mixture of cold air and water can foster hyperthermia.

As you warm up, you don’t want to overheat and become sweaty. Too much moisture will build up between your layers, replacing the air and removing your insulation.

  1. Cover your head and exposed skin

Always wear a hat, as your head is where at least half of your body heat is released if left uncovered.

Expose skin can also lose heat, so make sure to cover your hands and neck.

  1. Match footwear to the environment

When it’s snowing or wet out, a waterproof boot or shoe may not be the best footwear. These tend to hold in moisture and leave you with cold, wet feet and possibly frostbite when you sweat. Instead, select a vapor-permeable shoe.

If you are on terrain with a lot of ice, be sure to slip on traction cleats or snowshoes.

  1. Drink plenty of liquids

Don’t think that you need to drink less because it’s not hot out and the weather is cold. It’s easy to become dehydrated in the cold because it diminishes your thirst by as much as 40%, making it harder to realize you are becoming parched. Don’t forget your breathing and freeze-dried air, then breathing out 100% water vapor. Make sure to drink before, during and after your exercise. Also, avoid guzzling water; sip it instead.

Rule of thumb: Drink at least 10 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise.

  1. Stretch before and after exercise

It’s even more important to stretch during cold weather, as muscles contract to conserve heat, making them tighter and more prone to injury. Rule of thumb: When temperatures are 45 degrees Fahrenheit, perform at least 10 minutes of stretching for your legs and arms, giving each a 32nd hold or longer. In addition, for every 10 degrees colder than 45, add another five minutes of stretching.

  1. Fuel your body beforehand.

If you plan to exercise an hour or longer, make sure to fuel your body with something that will help maintain your blood sugar levels. When blood sugar falls too far, you can lose your perception of cold, and the body loses its shivering ability.

Rule of thumb: Good items for proper fuel against blood sugar loss are an energy bar, trail mix with dried fruit, or a peanut butter sandwich. If you’re someone who frequently has blood sugar problems, carry an emergency product as ReliOn glucose tablets with you if you have a sudden drop while at a distance from food sources.