How Cold is Too Cold for Winter Workout?

Weather conditions can vary greatly throughout the year, depending on where you live. If you enjoy exercising outdoors, the different seasons certainly bring their share of joys and sorrows. Who wouldn’t enjoy walking, running, or biking on a warm summer’s night, a fall afternoon, during a sunny spring day, or even amid the tranquility of an early winter morning?

We are entering the coldest time of the year. It can be tough to stick with your exercise program when winter hits. The shortage of daylight, the cold weather and strong urge to stay in your nice warm bed can all work against you as you try to stay focused on your workouts. If you enjoy exercising outside, then the bitter cold of winter can be more than just an inconvenience. And no, the alternative doesn’t have to mean hibernating for a few months, only to resurface with the buttercups in spring.

By taking a few special precautions, and monitoring winter weather and conditions, it can be completely safe, and even enjoyable, to work out in the wintry outdoors. When exercising outdoors in the winter, you should closely monitor your body.

Be aware if you are having any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion.
  • Weakness.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Pale, cold skin.
  • Slowed breathing or slowed heart rate.
  • Uncontrollable shivering.

When you recognize any of the above (don’t wait until you see them all!), it is time to go inside right away. Remember that completing a workout should not be a matter of life and death, no matter how committed you are. Take it indoors and use your favorite piece of cardio equipment, walk inside the mall, or do an exercise video. Being inside doesn’t have to be forever and you can do it if your safety depends on it.

Here are some tips when exercising outside in the winter to avoid hypothermia:

  • Dress appropriately for cold weather. In a nutshell: Layer, layer, layer.
  • Let friends and family know what you are doing, where you’ll be going, and when you should be back.
  • Stay close to home. If you begin getting too cold, you can get back quickly.
  • Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.

Following the tips above will keep you exercising safely through most winter days, it can still be unsafe sometimes, no matter what you are wearing or how conditioned you may be. You’ll be pretty safe during about 95% of your winter workouts, for the other 5% of the time, enjoy the great indoors.

It’s best to stay indoors when the outdoors resembles these conditions:

  • Ice. Icy roads and sidewalks are unsafe from an injury standpoint as they increase your chances of slips and falls.
  • Extremely cold temperatures with rain. If your body gets cold, and wet, you’re setting the stage for hypothermia to develop.
  • Extremely cold temperatures with high winds. Wind takes heat away from your body more rapidly, making it more difficult for your body to generate the heat it needs already in very cold temperatures.





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