Stay Safe Out There: How to Exercise in Cold Weather
Just because it’s getting colder out doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your outdoor workouts! If you enjoy exercising outside or even enjoy winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, a few extra precautions before you head outside can go a long way in making sure you stay safe and reduce the likelihood of an injury
1. Dress in Layers
- Dressing in layers will help you stay warm as you begin your work out and while you cool down at the end. It will also prevent you from overheating and feeling chilled as you are in the thick of the workout – simply remove layers as you begin to feel warm and sweat.
- As far as clothing material goes, be sure to avoid cotton which soaks up water like sweat and rain and can leave you feeling wet and chilled. Instead, opt for synthetic fibers that wick away water. If the forecast calls for wet weather, be sure to wear waterproof outer layers, too (e.g., jacket, hat, gloves, etc.).
2. Dress Brightly
- Winter weather and shorter days can make it difficult for others to see you. Make sure to dress in bright, reflective clothing whenever possible. Even better: carry or wear gear that has blinking lights and/or a flashlight (this will help you see, too!).
3. Wear Sunscreen
- Did you know that it’s just as possible to get a sunburn in the winter as in the summer? In fact, risk of sunburn can even be higher in the winter. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), snow can reflect as much as 80% of UV radiation. This basically means that the sun’s rays hit you twice – once from the sky and a second time from the ground as the rays rebound.
- The risk of sun damage also increases if you’re exposed to a higher altitude (think: if you’re skiing or snowboarding). As altitude increases, there is less atmosphere available to absorb UV radiation. Therefore, for every 1000 m in altitude, UV levels increase by approximately 10% (WHO).
- No matter what winter activity you’re doing, be sure to wear sunscreen on any parts of your body that are exposed (including a lip balm with SPF).
4. Stay Hydrated
- Although you may not feel as hot or sweaty as when it’s hot outside, you can still become dehydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
5. Warm Up & Cool Down
- It’s always important to warm up prior to a workout and cool down afterwards. This is especially important when exercising in lower temperatures.
6. Know the Signs of Frostbite & Hypothermia
- Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Symptoms include numbness, skin that feels waxy, and discoloration. If you suspect someone has frostbite, seek medical care.
- Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. This causes a dangerously low body temperature. This typically occurs in very cold weather but can also happen at cooler temperatures if a person is wet (e.g., if it’s raining, if they’re sweating, etc.). Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, confusion or memory, and drowsiness. If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, call for help right away.
7. Safety First
- If the weather outside is extreme and/or the area is not safe (e.g., the sidewalks haven’t been salted or shoveled yet), consider an indoor workout at home instead.
World Health Organization. (2016, March 9). Radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. World Health Organization. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/radiation-ultraviolet-(uv)
We want you to be well and to live your best life. The content in this blog is provided for the purposes to educate and entertain you: our very important reader. It is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice from a trained healthcare professional.
If you have a medical condition or are under the care of a medical provider, please always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before undertaking a new health care regimen. To that point, never disregard medical advice or delay treatment for a medical condition because of something you read on this site.
Listen to your care providers as they know you and your condition best. Thank you for reading!
The Team at BSDI