While the snow and freezing temperatures might make it seem difficult to get outdoor exercise in winter, the prospect cannot be dismissed completely. Exercising outdoors during winter can boost the body’s immunity system and is an effective cure for winter blues. As long as you take a couple of precautions, and keep a few important tips in mind, there is no reason why you should limit yourself and stay indoors all winter, even if you have a condition like asthma or heart problems.
- Firstly, make sure you consult your doctor, to determine whether it is safe for you to exercise outdoors during winter. Make sure you ask your doctor if there are concerns you need to take into consideration. You should also ask the doctor if there are any limitations, or any exercises you cannot perform. Once your doctor gives you the green light, you are good to go.
- Next, take a look at the weather forecast for the day on which you plan to exercise outdoors. Cold temperatures can be dealt with, but when they are combined with heavy winds, you should opt to stay indoors. Freezing temperatures coupled with wind create a winter chill, and wind draws heat off and away from your body. If you are unable to remain warm, you are at risk of hypothermia. Make sure there is no wind on the days on which you plan to exercise outdoors.
- Before you head outdoors to exercise, make sure you go through a quick warm-up routine indoors. Go through a couple of stretching exercises to warm up your muscles – stop just before your body begins to sweat, and then prepare to head outdoors.
- It is important to layer up properly before you go outdoors in winter. Wear a heavy, bulky outfit with lots of layers to protect yourself against the cold, but avoid cotton undershirts, as these absorb sweat and keep it pressed up against your skin. Ideally, you should wear an undershirt (or a garment made of polypropylene as this draws sweat away from your body) and a long-sleeved t-shirt, followed by a sweater (or a fleecy garment) and a windbreaker. Finally, you should add on a final layer of some waterproof garment. As far as footwear is concerned, wear one pair of wool socks, and then light, waterproof shoes that have a non-skid sole (this will keep you from falling, but you should avoid icy, slippery surfaces in general). In addition to all this, you will need to wear mittens or gloves, a scarf over your mouth to make breathing easier, and some sort of a warm, woolly hat.
- Once you are all layered up, you can head outside to begin exercising. Start slow to begin with, and then as your body temperature rises and adjusts to the cold, move on to the more challenging exercises. Throughout all this, you need to remember to breathe properly (inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth), and stay hydrated (you may not feel thirsty in the cold, but you body will lose water and fluids when you exercise, and you need to replenish this promptly).
- If at any point, you suspect you might be getting frostbite, stop exercising instantly and head indoors to warm yourself thoroughly. Frostbite is characterised by pale skin, and numbness or a complete loss of feeling in a particular part of your body (especially the fingers, toes, or face). Frostbite should go away if you gently warm up the afflicted area, but if the numbness does not go away, make sure you seek emergency care immediately.
- Once you are done with your routine, do not stop abruptly – rather, take your body through a cooling-down period, gradually moving into less strenuous exercises and gently slowing your body down. This cooling down period will keep your muscles flexible and in good condition, and will ease any stress the heart might undergo otherwise.
- In addition to regular exercises, you can also indulge in winter activities that are as good as a workout. For example, you might go snowboarding, or ice skating, etc. Even shovelling snow and making snow angels are good outdoor exercise for winter.