Winter weather shouldn’t mean a sentence of months of inactivity. Your favorite exercise and sports routines can still be done when the temperatures drop, you just may have to be aware of how your body will react to the lower temps and prepare accordingly.
Some easy things you can do to keep you physically warmer include wearing waterproof shoes so the snow and sleet are repelled, upgrade your socks to wool instead of the thinner cotton versions, dress in layers that will keep you warmer (start with a base layer that will keep you skin warm, then layer a breathable fabric that helps wick away sweat), ditch the gloves in favor of mittens where your fingers can help keep each other warmer, cover your head and ears, and if you’re out for extended periods of time make sure you are watching out for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite especially on your extremities.
Cold weather can affect people at different rates for different reasons. Young children and older people are more likely affected. Children have less body mass than adults; therefore they have less ability to regulate their body temperature. At temperatures that are below-freezing, children can get frost bite quickly on exposed fingers, toes, noses and ears. Older people who may suffer from other ailments or illnesses (such as arthritis) can also suffer cold injuries more quickly than a healthy, younger adult.
Frostbite can get bad quickly. Frostbite is the actually freezing of our tissues, from skin to soft tissue, muscle or bone. Depending on the temperature and if there is exposed skin or body parts, frost bite can happen almost anywhere on the human body. Frostbite is measured in degree of stages. The longer your skin is exposed to the cold, the worse your frostbite is going to be. Severe cases can lead to amputation of affected areas so the rest of the body can remain healthy and unaffected.
Dress for Success
Dressing in layers so you can adjust your comfort level during your workout is a necessity during cold winter months. It is suggested to wear no more than four layers on your torso or upper body, while wearing no more than two layers on your lower body. Stay away from clingy cotton right next to your skin, because as you sweat, cotton will get wet and stay wet. The last thing you want to be is wet when you’re in near-freezing, or below, temps. Something synthetic that can wick away sweat is a great bottom layer. Then add to your layers with warm fleece or wool tops, and your outer layer should be something waterproof and breathable. Zippers and other things that make these layers easy to strip out of and put back on as your body temperature changes and adjusts is highly recommended as well.
If it is bitter cold outside, something between your mouth and the bitter air is recommended as well. A face mask or a scarf can help make the cold air more breathable without such a zap to your lungs as you breathe it in.
You could also consider changing from regular cotton socks to wool for some extra insulation on your susceptible toes. Dry, waterproof shoes or boots are also a necessity when playing winter sports. Mittens are better than gloves because they allow body heat to be kept by your fingers touching each other, and of course a hat is a must to help keep your body heat from leaving through the top of your head, as well as helping to cover your ears.
Appropriate sporting gear can help keep you safe with hazards only winter can bring. It is darker more of the time in winter months, so help combat a dark workout with reflective clothing. When enjoying winter motor sports such as snowmobiling, snowboarding and skiing, please consider using a helmet. If you’re going to be on your feet in wet and/or icy areas make sure your shoes or boots have excellent traction for the elements. If you’re going to be outdoors for long periods of time, you can help keep your feet warm by using chemical heat packs in your footwear, which can also be pulled out to warm your hands, if needed.
All in all, winter weather does not give you an excuse to stop working out or playing sports. You can have an enjoyable and effective workout if you know how to stay safe and warm during winter months.