Outside Health Advice

Cold weather doesn’t have to mean putting exercising on ice. Here are some tips to exercise shoes safely — even when it’s 20 below.

Winter can frustrate the most motivated exercisers. And if you’re not so motivated, it’s all too easy to pack your workout gear away with your summer clothes. But keeping up your exercise routine in cold weather can be rewarding.

For one thing, outdoor exercising is a sure cure for cabin fever and the winter blues. And it increases energy, which can be sapped by gloomy weather.

Exercise also bolsters your immune system —studies show that moderate exercisers get 20 to 30 percent fewer colds than nonexercisers do. If you’re not looking forward to another winter of pounding endless miles on the power walking the malls, the good news is that you don’t have to. With the right clothing tips and a little planning, cold-weather exercise can be safe, effective and, yes, fun.

Check with your doctor. Experts say that almost everyone can exercise safely in the cold, including people with asthma and heart problems. If you have health concerns, get your doctor’s OK.

Layer it on. One of the biggest mistakes cold-weather exercisers make is dressing too warmly. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat — enough to make you feel like it’s 30 degrees warmer than it really is. At the same time, once you start to tire and the sweat dries, you can get chilled. The solution? Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, try fleece for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. A heavy down jacket or vest will cause most people to overheat. If you’re naturally lean, though, you’ll need more insulation than someone who is heavier. If it’s very cold (about 0 F or -17.8 C) or you have asthma, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth.

Protect your extremities. When it’s cold, blood is shunted to your body’s core, leaving your hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin pair of gloves under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. You might want to buy fitness shoes a half-size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks.

And don’t forget a hat or headband — 30 to 40 percent of your body heat is lost through your head.

Choose appropriate gear. If it’s dark, wear reflective clothing. To stay steady on your feet, choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls. Wear a helmet for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Remember sunscreen. It’s as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer — even more so if you’re exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 15 or higher. Use a lip balm that contains sunscreen, and protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.

Head into the wind. You’ll be less likely to get chilled on the way back if you end your workout — when you may be sweaty — with the wind at your back.

Drink plenty of fluids. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout — even if you’re not thirsty. You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat from sweating, breathing and increased urine production.

Pay attention to wind chill. The wind can penetrate your clothes and remove the insulating layer of warm air that surrounds your body. Fast motion — such as skiing, running, cycling or skating — also creates wind chill because it increases air movement past your body. When the temperature is 10 F (-12.2 C) and the air is calm, skiing at 20 miles an hour creates a wind chill of minus 9 (-22.8 C). If the temperature dips well below zero (-17.8 C), choose an indoor activity instead.

Stay motivated. When it’s cold outdoors, there’s no need to hit the couch. With a little knowledge and fortitude, you can meet the challenges — and reap the rewards — of winter exercise. For many people, the solitude and quiet alone are reason enough to brave the elements.

Website: www.seniorskeepingfit.com

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