Tips to make exercising outdoors fun, safe in the winter
When temperatures drop and snowflakes fall, many walkers and runners leave behind the roads, trails and tracks for the treadmill, elliptical and other indoor workout activities. However, for those who do not want to give up exercising outdoors, being properly prepared can make a cold weather outing both safe and enjoyable.
Dr. Steven Chudik, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with the Shoulder, Knee and Sports Medicine Injury Clinic in Westmont and Western Springs, Ill., explained exercising outdoors during the winter requires advance preparation to ensure you have appropriate clothing to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. Frostbite can occur when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, usually affecting appendages like fingers, ears and toes first. Hypothermia often is caused by overdressing which makes athletes sweat more so they become wet and cold.
According to Dr. Steven Chudik, water transfers heat more effectively than air, so hypothermia begins to set in when the body’s core temperature falls to 95 degrees. “The trick to avoiding hypothermia is to keep moving and wear appropriate layers of clothing so you do not sweat profusely,” he advises.
To stay warm and dry, Dr. Chudik recommends following the layering rule of three:
Layer 1: A wicking layer to absorb sweat off the skin and keep the body dry
Layer 2: An insulating layer to provide warmth
Layer 3: A protective layer to resist the wind
It also is important to keep your face, ears, fingers and toes properly covered. Wear gloves and a hat or ski mask. To keep feet warm and dry, do not wear cotton socks since they will absorb sweat. Instead, wear socks made of neoprene or wool which wick away sweat.
Many runners and walkers make the mistake of not drinking enough water before and during their walk/run which can lead to dehydration.
“Cold temperature diminishes thirst so you don’t feel an urge to drink while exercising” said Dr. Chudik. “We actually need more fluid for the process of respiration when it is cold so you need to plan ahead to have accessible locations with water along your route.”
After a long walk/run outdoors, those who dressed appropriately should not feel cold. For anyone feeling extremely cold, Dr. Chudik recommends these steps:
• Get out of the cold, remove wet clothes and redress.
• Cover with warm blankets, use a hot water bottle, or heating pad to raise body temperature.
• Take a pain reliever because warming can cause pain.
• Refuel with food containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats and make sure to drink water. Food and nutrients are required to make heat and will provide the body with short and long term energy.
If you experienced frostbite, take a warm shower with water at 100 degrees, but DO NOT rub the affected area. Seek medical attention as soon as possible for frostbite or hypothermia.
While running or walking in the cold may not be the most popular exercise this winter, a little preparation can make it a safe and fun experience.