It is tempting to stay indoors and work out at a local fitness center when the weather is very cold.  However, getting outdoors for a walk or run may be just the thing we need to boost our energy.  You don’t have to go as far as your warm weather outdoor activity, but knowing ways to be prepared for a cold weather walk or run is important.  Before you start winterizing your body, though, be sure to check with your physician if you have health problems such as heart, lung, or asthma.  Pay attention to weather forecasts, and if the wind chill is too low, opt for indoor exercise, or skip it for a day or two.  Wind chills can be extremely unsafe.  Don’t try to exercise outside if it is so cold that there is a risk of hyperthermia or frostbite. 

Because your body temperature will rise once you get going and you get warmer, you need to dress as though the temperature is about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.  Wear layers, but avoid cotton; it traps moisture and draws heat away from your body.  We always advise you to wear high visibility clothing, even if it is daytime; it may be overcast, and you might not be seen by drivers.  You can find high-visibility gloves, hats, coats, and other clothing.  Also, wear sunglasses to block UV rays, which can damage your eyes.  Reflections on the snow and pavement can  harm your vision.   Also, be sure your shoes furnish good traction, as you want to avoid a slip or fall.  Consider wearing a slightly larger size shoe to accommodate thick socks.  Also, lip balm, earmuffs, or scarf, even a face mask to warm the air before it enters your lungs – all keep your body protected from the cold. 

The natural reaction to being outdoors, is to get to the end of the trail a little faster.  This will boost calorie burning, as well as get you back inside sooner!  Pumping your arms vigorously helps you burn more calories by speeding you up.  Take shorter steps, especially if you are on snow, or possibly ice beneath the snow, to eliminate falling.  Another clever idea is to use Nordic poles.  Plant the pole firmly at a 45-degree angle behind you, and push back forcefully against the ground to propel yourself forward.  In winter weather, it’s better to stretch after your walk/run because your muscles are looser.  To begin, start with a brisk walk or light jog to prime cold muscles.  Remember to drink fluids, as dry winter air can lead to dehydration.

My faithful personal trainer, Buddy, (Jack Russell terrier) and I skipped our daily walk last week because it was pretty nippy.  But this information makes me more determined to put his coat or sweater on, wrap myself up, and keep going, regardless of the cold.  We’ve been walking daily for 11 years, so we must quit slacking just because it’s quite a bit colder.  I hope this will encourage you to do the same.  Be sure to tell someone when you are going and give them your route, just to be on the safe side.


Sources:  Mayo Clinic, Health Magazine