Tis’ the season of shuffling down icy sidewalks and the endless search for missing mittens. It’s also the season of chilly temperatures that might compromise one’s ability to exercise outdoors. For many, outdoor fitness is a lifestyle for which there may be no substitute. Exercising in the elements provides accessible, affordable and minimal resource fitness. Alternatively, common barriers to exercising indoors include pricey gym memberships or lack of extra home space and exercise equipment.
The cold weather might feel like an obstacle to outdoor fitness but it doesn’t have to be. Check out these helpful evidence-based recommendations and advantages to exercising outdoors this season.
- Choose the right gear and dress for weather 10 degrees warmer than the outdoor temps. Wear layers like vests, undershirts, leggings, track pants and fleece. A good rule of thumb is that the layer closest to your skin should have moisture-wicker properties. The 2nd layer should provide insulation, like wool or fleece. The 3rd layer should be wind or rain repellant. Finally, don’t skip a hat, mittens and socks. As you exercise in the cooler temperatures, blood flows to your core which leaves your head, hands and feet susceptible to cold.
- Prioritize a warm up and cool down to help your body acclimate to the drastic temperature changes. Cold muscles are at a greater risk of injury so aim for 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches. After cooling down, remember to quickly change out of damp workout clothes to avoid becoming chilled. Finally, don’t forget to hydrate. It can be difficult to notice thirst as the temperatures drop.
- Consider diversifying your exercise routine. In addition to jogging, the outdoors offers many alternative activities. Try out a new hike, a bike ride or ice skating. Research shows that exercising in the cold may actually improve endurance. So, check your weather app, layer up and head for the great outdoors to get moving.
- Gatterer H, Dünnwald T, Turner R, Csapo R, Schobersberger W, Burtscher M, Faulhaber M, Kennedy MD. Practicing Sport in Cold Environments: Practical Recommendations to Improve Sport Performance and Reduce Negative Health Outcomes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 15;18(18):9700. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189700. PMID: 34574624; PMCID: PMC8471173.
- Gilmerm. (2020, December 17). How to stay active outside when the weather gets colder. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-stay-active-outside-when-the-weather-gets-colder/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, December 1). The wonders of winter workouts. Harvard Health. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-wonders-of-winter-workouts
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 29). Winter Fitness: Safety Tips for exercising outdoors. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626