Just because the weather is cold does not mean you have to stay inside. With a few preparations, outdoor exercise can be a year-round activity.

Exposure to the cold causes 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. Take extra precautions to prevent increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Layer up

Dress in layers. Overdressing causes sweating and could cause a drastic drop in body temperature. Each layer has a purpose:

  • Innermost layer: Soaks up sweat and carries it away from your skin. (Polypropylene or cotton fabrics are best).
  • Middle layer: Provides insulation (wool or goose-down).
  • Outer layer: Blocks wind, water and snow (waterproof fabric).

Six easy guidelines for cold weather workouts

  1. Increase length of warmup exercises to allow blood vessels to open.
  2. Monitor your heart rate.
  3. Watch for icy spots on the road or sidewalk.
  4. 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.
  5. Shovel snow in intervals, and while the snow is fresh. Allow your body to acclimate to the demand being put on it.
  6. When it is below 35o F, exercise indoors.

If you notice any unusual feelings or symptoms, stop what you are doing, contact your health care provider or call 911. Be safe when exercising outdoors and you can maintain your fitness all year long.