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Cold Weather Workouts
As the new year begins, you’ll probably see many more people in your local gym trying to get in better shape. However, you probably won’t see many people exercising outdoors. The dropping temperatures have driven most people inside, but they are missing out on some benefits of exercising outside.
Working out in the cold can be more effective than working out inside. If you have a healthy heart, exercising outdoors in cold weather actually can cause your body to burn more energy -- i.e. calories. That’s because your muscles have to work with more intensity in the cold. In fact, when your body is shivering, that is just your muscles contracting to create heat to try to warm you up.
If you want to stay safe and be reasonably comfortable when you are working out in the cold, follow some basic steps.
Check the temperature. If the temperature outside is more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit, there is less than a 5 percent chance of getting frostbite – unless the wind is blowing. The real frostbite threat is wind chill. If wind chill hits -18 degrees, frostbite can occur on exposed skin within 30 minutes. In addition, if there is ice on the sidewalk or road, you might want to take your workout indoors rather than risk a fall or other injury.
Dress for the weather. Frostbite is most dangerous on exposed skin. And the more exposed skin you have, the more heat your body is losing. Wear a hat and gloves to keep your fingers and head warm. Steer clear of clothes made of cotton or wool, because they get wet when you sweat. Then when you are finishing your workout and sweating less, you will be cold. Instead, choose clothes made of polypropylene. And dress in layers, so that you can take a layer or two off as you get deep into your workout and then put layers back on as you cool down.
Warm up inside. Muscles stiffen up in colder weather, so it’s especially important to warm up before you head outside. Do plenty of stretches, and do the warmup exercises you would do if you were doing your workout inside.
Hydrate. Even though you probably won’t be hot, you still need to get enough to drink. And cold air generally is dry, making it even more important to drink before and during your workout. If you are going to be outside for only an hour or less, water is fine. But if you are working out longer, take a drink that provides carbs or electrolytes.
Be aware of signs of trouble. Even if you take all the right precautions, you still should be alert to signs that your body is not coping well with the cold. For example, if you feel numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, that could be a sign of frostbite. If you start to feel odd or uncomfortable from the cold – as opposed to from the exercise – it might be time to head back inside.