Has the winter chill gotten you down? Just because the temperature outside has dropped, there’s no reason to develop a case of cabin fever. Almost everyone can exercise in the colder months provided that it’s done correctly. What a great way to improve the spirit, fight the holiday weight gain and get a jump on next year’s swimsuit season. However, exercising improperly in the cold weather can be just as harmful as exercising in the summer heat. Here are some helpful hints to keep you safe and fit this winter.
Know the Warning Signs
Hypothermia is a significant drop in the core body temperature to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can occur in both freezing temperatures as well as cool, above freezing temperatures. The elderly are more susceptible to hypothermia. Early warning signs of hypothermia are shivering, confusion, numbness, pallor and dizziness. It resembles the state of intoxication. Left unchecked, the individual may become excessively sedated with poor coordination and muscle stiffness. Eventually, breathing and heart rate slow which can result in coma. Severe hypothermia is a medical emergency. In cold temperatures, the body shunts blood from the extremities and to its core. This leaves the superficial tissues of the skin more vulnerable to freezing, as in frost nip, and can progress to the serious condition of frost bite. Warning signs of frost nip are the pallor, pain and numbness of the affected skin. If prolonged freezing of the skin occurs, the blood vessels and deeper layers of the skin become severely damaged. This is now considered frost bite and medical intervention is necessary. The areas of the body most commonly affected are the hands, feet, nose and ears.
Prevention Is Key
Hydration is just as important in the cold as it is on hot days. Be sure to consume plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Do invest in some good outdoor gear. To maximize your winter workout wear, dress in layers. The first layer should help whisk sweat away from your skin, therefore a synthetic material such as polypropylene should do the trick. Add an insulation layer such as fleece and top with a jacket that is both waterproof and made in a breathable fabric. Also, cover your head, as almost half of your body heat is lost here. Protect hands and feet with layers too, remember you may need to buy larger shoes in order to accommodate an extra layer of socks. You may also want to consider a face mask or a scarf over the mouth, especially for those with asthma.
Practice Common Sense
Extremes of cold weather, such as subzero temperatures, are best avoided. Do take the wind chill factor into account as well as the actual temperature. The risk of hypothermia increases when the wind chill temperature drops below minus twenty.
Avoid exercise as a general rule if you are febrile or experiencing significant bronchial symptoms or muscle aches when sick with upper respiratory tract infections.
Whenever in doubt, stop and seek warm surroundings immediately. In the darkness of winter months, do remember to wear reflective gear as necessary. And, of course, speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about whether outdoor exercise is right for you.