Exercising in winter – what you need to know
By Dr Mike Edgley
First, a round of applause to you for exercising in the often harsh and bitter season of winter!
Glancing out the window at cloudy skies, rainy streets, and windswept trees can be enough to drive anyone back into their pyjamas and on the couch.
There are some great (and important) benefits to braving the weather and getting outside and moving, but there are also some pro tips and precautions you should know before heading out for your winter workout to keep you safe, healthy, and in optimal shape.
Warm up before you hit the cold
Warming up your muscles before exercising should be part of your regular routine regardless of the season, but it is even more important during winter!
Colder temperatures mean your body must work harder to increase its core temperature and accommodate the weather, so skipping dynamic stretching and warm-ups in winter could lead to an increased risk of injury.
Dress for success
Investing in some winter weather workout gear is well worth the money to ensure your body is supported to function at its best during exercise.
Getting your body wet during winter is the most efficient way to lose vital body heat and make you feel chilled to the bone – consider some wet weather workout gear and extremity protection such as rain jackets, moisture-wicking clothes, beanies, gloves, and good quality shoes to shield you from this risk.
Focus on your breathing
Your lungs aren’t generally big fans of breathing in the cold and dry air of winter as it tends to irritate and narrow the airways which makes getting good quality breaths in more difficult, particularly for asthmatics.
While your lungs will eventually acclimatise to the change in season, it’s important to support them as much as you can. Try setting smaller goals, warming up properly, wearing a face covering to increase the moisture in your breaths, ensuring you have enough layers on over your chest, and carrying an inhaler with you if you suffer from asthma.
Wear bright/reflective gear
Winter days are darker for longer, and often dim and hazy, resulting in poor visibility for pedestrians and vehicles alike. If you’re planning on heading out in the dark or on a day where visibility might be hindered, invest in some brightly coloured and/or reflective clothes to protect you from serious incidents and alert others to your presence.
Know when to call it
Dedication to exercise during winter is admirable, but so is knowing your limits during tougher climates, and knowing when to call it quits altogether.
Check the weather and radar before you head out to ensure you’re not going head-on into harsh rain, hail, wind, or other extreme weather conditions that could put you at risk.
If you’re already committed and going at it full force, remember that your body is working harder during colder weather and pay attention to your limits and when you should call it a day •