Cold Weather Workouts
By: Anthony G. Alessi M.D.
Many former athletes have begun the new year with a resolution to exercise more. For those who have stuck with their resolution and live in cold climates, some words of caution are needed.
Winter provides a great opportunity for outdoor sports including snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding. Many continue their outdoor walking, running and cycling programs as well. In addition to the challenge presented by these activities, energy is expended trying to stay warm and avoid frostbite.
Frostbite occurs when skin and the tissues below freeze. Typical symptoms of frostbite include pain, burning, numbness and tingling. The extremities and other areas of the body furthest from the heart are most susceptible.
Anyone with asthma, heart problems, Raynaud’s disease or other vascular conditions needs to be especially careful when exposed to cold weather.
Some ways to avoid frostbite and other complications of overexposure to cold include:
Awareness of weather conditions. Check the weather report for your area and try to schedule outdoor activities during warmer parts of the day.
Dress in layers. Thin layers of synthetic material such as new products with “wicking” capabilities are most helpful. These fabrics draw sweat away from the skin. A layer of fleece or wool can go over this with a waterproof outer layer.
Cover exposed surfaces. Appropriate gloves or mittens, hat and ear protection are crucial. Merino wool socks have inherent wicking properties while providing warmth.
Visibility at night. When exercising after dark, reflective attire and a head lamp or other light can be lifesaving.
Recognize early signs of frostbite. When numbness and tingling begin, it is time to get to a warm place.
Outdoor exercise in cold climates can be both energizing and productive when athletes are aware of pitfalls.
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