Exercise is essential—there are no two ways about it. But for many people, the ability to exercise is severely affected by their environment, especially people who live in areas with cold winters. Fortunately, a drop in temperature does not have to mean a drop in your exercise routine. Your exercises can be modified depending on your fitness level. Here are a few tips that make winter workouts both workable and effective.
Dress appropriately. If you are going out in freezing temperatures, dress for freezing temperatures. There are no rewards for getting hypothermia.
Warm up & Stretch. Before you start a serious workout, you need to perform warm-up exercises that both loosen your limbs and raise your body temperature. You might try jogging in place for five minutes indoors before heading outside. Then, once you get started, make sure to take frequent breaks in the early stages of exercise that will help your body adjust to the weather. Your Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer can help you create a great plan to make sure you are preventing injury!
Schedule intelligently. While you may normally work out early in the morning during the winter, this may be inadvisable because that’s when the temperature is usually coldest. Schedule your outdoor exercise for mid-afternoon to take better advantage of the warmer temperatures.
Know your environment. Whether walking, jogging or cross-country skiing, you should be aware of the conditions along your route. Avoid icy and excessively slick areas to protect yourself from injury—you are exercising, not trying to prove how graceful you are under adverse conditions. If you are ice-skating, be 100% sure of the safety of the surface—skating on thin ice can be fatal. Make sure you only skate at appropriately supervised and maintained locations.
Stay hydrated. You might think that maintaining hydration means managing sweat and keeping your body cool only in the summer. However, just because the temperatures are colder, it does not mean you will not sweat or overheat. Keep some kind of fluid handy in a temperature-resistant container so it will not freeze.
If you want to continue exercising outdoors in the winter, PTSMC and PT for Life can help you with an individualized exercise program. We will be sure that the exercises we plan are appropriate for your unique circumstances.