“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.” —Dr. Seuss, “The Cat in the Hat”
Just because the weather is getting colder does not mean you have to stay inside. Exercise is a year-round activity, no matter what Mother Nature may bring. But even the most motivated person can be discouraged.
It is important to stay safe when you are active outdoors. Exposure to the cold causes the blood vessels to narrow in order to conserve body heat. This makes it harder for the heart to pump oxygenated blood through the constricted vessels to the exercising muscles. Therefore, extra precautions are necessary to prevent increased blood pressure and heart rate.
There are some easy guidelines to follow:
- Dress in layers. Overdressing causes sweating and could cause a drastic drop in body temperature. Each layer has a purpose:
- Innermost clothing layer: soaks up sweat and carries it away from your skin. (Polypropylene or cotton fabrics are best).
- Middle clothing layer: provides insulation (wool or goose down).
- Outer clothing layer: blocks wind, water and snow (Gore-Tex or Nylon).
- Increase length of warm-up exercises to allow blood vessels to open.
- Monitor your heart rate.
- Watch for icy spots on the road or sidewalk.
- When it is below 35o F, exercise indoors.
- Stay hydrated. It is easy to not notice when you are dehydrated on a cold day. You still lose water from an increased breathing rate, but your urine production increases during cold weather as well.
- Shovel snow in intervals. Allow your body to acclimate to the demand being put on it.
Remember, if you start to experience any unusual feelings or symptoms, stop what you are doing and contact your doctor or call 911. Be safe when exercising outdoors and you will be able to maintain your fitness all year long.