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  • Fauzia Haque

The Worries of Wintertime Workouts

By: Fauzia Haque, Contributing Writer

With the cold arriving fast and already hitting much of the Northern Hemisphere with lower temperatures, many find themselves at a loss for how to exercise during a frosty winter. Exercising in colder weather without the proper clothes can put the body in a severe position where the consequence is often hypothermia. It can also accelerate medical issues such as asthma, heart conditions, and Raynaud’s disease if already present in the body. However, cold weather does not need to be a cause for concern to stop exercising and keeping the body healthy. Research shows that cold weather can actually have the opposite effect where it actually aids the efficiency of exercise’s impact. Exercising in the cold signifies less work on the heart, less perspiration, and less utilization of energy. Nonetheless, it is imperative that one has adequate clothing, gear, and set-up to survive the harsh implications that the cold weather can bring, especially during physical activity.

Be Aware of the Weather and Check for Wind Chills

Be sure to check the weather conditions and the forecast before heading outside or to the gym. The amount of time and any fluctuations in temperature are important to be aware of in order to adequately prepare efficiently beforehand for a sage cold-winter routine. Wind chills are gusts of wind occurring in the cold, causing even more of a cooling effect. Drastically extreme wind chills can create unsafe and unhealthy conditions for exercise, even with the warmest set of clothes on. Exposure to wind chill can increase the chances of frostbite occurring at quick paces, especially in temperatures of twenty degrees below zero. It’s best to consider taking a break and heading indoors to workout instead.

Know the Symptoms of Cold-Related Illnesses

Being aware of the symptoms and signs of frostbite, which is an injury to exposed skin caused by the intense freezing temperatures. Early warning signs usually appear on extremities where numbness and a stinging sensation may occur. Frostbite most commonly happens on the nose, ears, hands, and feet, but generally occurs wherever exposed skin is. If there is a sign of frostbite that one detects, immediately get back into the warmth of an indoor area and slowly warm the frosted skin. Be sure to not make rubbing motions on the affected area so that the skin doesn’t get damaged further. If the sensation is not regained and the feeling of numbness is persistent, seek emergency care right away. Another cold-related disease that can arise if proper precautions are not taken seriously is hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical ailment that occurs when the body is at a drastically lower temperature than what is typically normal. The body rapidly loses its heat at a pace that it cannot be made up for, cursing the cold to take over. Symptoms and conditions to look out for include intense shivering, slurred speech, coordination loss, and extreme fatigue and exhaustion. If these signs do occur and it looks like the cause is hypothermia, call for medical help right away to prevent further complications.

Dress Warmly and Comfortably

Learning to dress moderately and adequately while exercising in the cold is an important feat to ensure safety and preparedness. Dressing with too many layers may cause the body to overheat, causing perspiration that may freeze the outermost layer of skin. Dress comfortably in several layers that can be easily taken off and put on again. Avoid fabrics that cling to your skin like cotton and go for more synthetic material like polyester or other dry-fit fabrics. Add a jacket on top and a final breathable layer to finish off the outfit. Make sure that the head, ears, hands, feet, and nose are protected against the cold as these are the areas that can get easily affected. The cooling of the body’s core can leave these body parts vulnerable to frostbite. Put the same layering of clothing on hands as what would be put on the rest of the body. Wearing running shoes that are a little bigger than one’s normal size can allow for heavier and thicker material of socks to be worn. Wear a hat or a scarf in order to protect the ears and the head from the cold as well.

Maintain Safety Gear and Treatment

If exercising in conditions where there is snow and ice out on the road and it is dark, wear reflective clothing or bright colors that can make it obvious to oncoming traffic of an individual’s presence. Choose shoes with enough traction and wear a helmet if doing more extreme outside activities. If necessary, bring along heat pads that can warm up the body in dire situations or if the temperature begins to drop. In case of an emergency like slipping on ice, always make sure to carry a cell phone to be able to call for help. As for sunscreen, wearing sunscreen is just as significant in the cold as in the summer. Keep maintaining the usage of sunscreen as sunburns can still occur even in the cold and use dark goggles if necessary to protect against the glares from the snow and ice.

Continue to Drink Fluids

The cold weather causes the body to lose less energy, but that does not mean that fewer fluids are needed during the activity. Wind gusts can cause a drying effect and constant sweating can dehydrate the body and leave it vulnerable to hypovolemic shocks and organ issues. Maintain the consumption of fluids that will hydrate the body and prevent the implications of dehydration since cold weather can cause the illusion that more fluids are not needed.

During Quarantine

With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc on so many communities worldwide, exercise and working out have been much more difficult to accomplish. Wearing a mask can not only slow the spread of the disease but also prevent frostbite of the nose and cheeks by keeping those areas safe and warm with a fabric mask. Please follow these tips and take even more precautionary measures by following the health guidelines and rules when going out to protect against the pandemic in the community!


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Dec 09, 2020

Thank you so much for this incredible article! I love going outside in winter and I am going to use this article to help convince my friends to take a walk outdoors too.

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