How to Best Exercise in Winter Weather
Feel like going for a run or hopping on your bike, but the bite of the chilly air is a little too much to handle?
The winter months stand as the most difficult time of the year to stay on top of physical fitness. Not only does the frosty weather naturally slow your movements, but it also challenges your immune system to help your body warm up. If you aren’t careful, you might come home with a sweaty sickness to deal with after an outdoor workout. No one likes catching colds!
Thankfully, a frigid environment doesn’t have to deter you from healthy living and staying physically active with an exercise routine. Your body is like a thermostat: get too hot, and it makes you sweat to cool off. Get too cold, and it works overtime to keep you warm.
With proper planning, you can step into the cold air and exercise nearly as effectively as you did during the warmer months. Here are some of the best fitness tips for exercising in winter weather without getting too cold, catching a disease, or feeling discouraged. Take notes before your next winter workout!
Stay Smart, Stay Warm
By far, the biggest hurdle your body needs to overcome when exercising outside in the cold is staying warm. In cooler weather, the immune system becomes weaker as the body diverts more energy to maintain a warm internal temperature. This is primarily why you’re more susceptible to illness in the winter.
As such, it’s extremely important to dress correctly when heading out for a jog or hiking a trail in cold climates. You need to give your body as much of an advantage over the elements as possible! Opt for clothing that covers exposed skin and traps dry body heat while allowing moisture—like sweat—to evaporate away. Avoid cotton materials, which aren't breathable and actually absorb moisture, making you colder when the workout reaches its peak.
Gauge how active you plan to be while outside and wear enough layers to counter the effects of the cold as much as possible. Sweatpants, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, scarves, thermal leggings, mittens, headbands, and thick socks make good choices when gearing up for activity in the cold. Don’t forget about the head and ears—beanies are often the perfect solution to keep the heat in.
While it’s better to err on the side of more clothes, you should still be careful not to overdress. After all, going running in twenty pounds of coats might feel like marching in a suit of armor! The key is to provide just enough outer layers to give your body the edge it needs without sacrificing a quality workout in the process. Keep in mind your body temperature rises after your heart rate increases from prolonged physical activity such as cardio, meaning too much clothing could quickly become uncomfortably warm. For optimal performance while still staying safe, strike the balance between warm and flexible.
When in doubt, consult a personal trainer or healthcare professional to understand what clothing might work best for you.
Always Check the Weather
Despite your best attempts to stay warm during cold-weather exercise, sometimes the elements win no matter what you try. Pay attention to hazardous conditions when planning to exercise, including wind chill, rain, snow, storms, and especially ice. Any combination of these complications could spell disaster for your workout and put you in harm’s way.
The National Safety Council states you’re generally safe when properly clothed and exercising in temperatures as low as 20° F. However, if the temperatures drop below -20° F (due to wind chill or otherwise), any form of activity outdoors could be threatening. One of the primary issues involves breathing in air that is extremely cold, preventing the body from properly keeping a warm internal temperature. A workaround to this includes wearing a scarf or face covering to warm the air you inhale, but it’s typically best to call off your exercise altogether if conditions get cold enough to consider that in the first place.
If you find yourself facing inclement weather in the midst of your workout, immediately stop what you’re doing and seek out warm shelter. Don’t play the hero and muscle through bad conditions—you’ll only put your body at risk of disease, exhaustion, hypothermia, and frostbite.
Pre-heat Before You Go
Another tactic to combat the cold before outdoor exercise involves warming yourself up prior to stepping out the front door. If your body is already quite warm before you embark, it will have an easier time regulating that temperature when threatened by a chill.
Anything you can do to elevate your internal temperature at home before a workout can do wonders. For instance, try taking a hot, steamy shower right before you head out (just make sure to thoroughly dry off). You might also want to sit in front of a heater or warm vent, or even stoke a fire in the fireplace to get comfortable. If you have access to a sauna, sit inside for 15 to 30 minutes and allow your body to become completely toasty—but don’t forget to drink water before you head off.
Speaking of hydration, warm beverages or foods like tea, coffee, and soup can also help prepare for a foray into the frost by heating your body from the inside out. Carrying a hot drink with you during your activity can also be vastly preferred over taking a sip of cold water through chattering teeth. Be careful you don’t consume too much before the exercise, however, or you might face stomach cramps when the going gets tough!
Be There for Your Immune System
The body is amazing at what it does, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Cold temperatures always leave your immune system exposed to germs and airborne viruses (like coronavirus) which, contrary to popular belief, are still able to live and thrive in cold weather. With so many dangers ready to pounce on your immune system during the winter, it pays to be ready with a clean pair of sanitized hands before you venture outside for a cold-weather workout.
The only problem? Cold weather loves to dry out your skin, leaving it cracked and flaky. Most hand sanitizers will only aggravate the symptoms, leading to worse conditions such as eczema. These problems were especially evident after the COVID-19 pandemic, and can be a pain whether you plan to double down on winter exercise or not!
Muse Health’s Fragrance-free Hand Sanitizer fights this problem by including natural, moisturizing oils in its formula to refresh the skin rather than dry it out. Meanwhile, the ethyl alcohol content still kills 99% of germs on the surface of your hands, getting the job done safely without dehydrating or damaging the skin. During these cold times, the ability to live cleanly and worry-free is not to be undervalued.
Visit our shop today and prepare for your next workout in the cold!