Tips for Exercise in Colder Weather

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As the weather cools down we often find ourselves thinking that it’s too cold to get outside to exercise. However, we are spoiled in Texas in that our winters are mild enough to allow outdoor exercise year around. In order to safely exercise when the climate turns chilly – even if it’s not Arctic-frigid around Austin – it’s worth considering the following tips:

1) Wear warmer clothes and dress in layers.  Make sure to layer and to wear gloves and a hat or headband when doing your workouts outside.   Synthetic fabrics can wick moisture away from your skin – limiting the cooling effects of perspiration. Lightweight wools or fleece can provide extra warmth when there is a particular chill to the air.  And a waterproof and/or windproof outer layer is also a good safety measure in colder temperatures.  Getting soaked in a cold rain can quickly lower core body temperature, which is not only uncomfortable, but can potentially lead to hypothermia.

2) Stay hydrated.  A lot of people forget to drink enough water while it’s cold outside, but it’s still important to stay properly hydrated when the weather cools down.  Even if you don’t feel as thirsty as you would when exercising in the summertime, try to drink water and/or sports drinks prior to, during, and after winter exercise.

3) Warm up. As described in this Outside magazine article, a proper warm up is an important part of readying your body for exertional activity, especially in colder weather.  Make sure to walk for a while to get your muscles warmed up before performing exercises or going for a run.  Or perform a variety of dynamic warm-up activities (jumping jacks, high-knee jog in place, etc.) prior to participating in outdoor sports.  Increasing heart rate and promoting blood flow to muscles has been demonstrated to improve performance and can also limit the risk of injury in some sports.

4) Consider seasonal safety equipment.  Shorter days mean there is a greater likelihood that it may be dark while outdoor exercise is occurring.  Consider reflective clothing, flashers and lights on bicycles, dogs, and strollers.  If exercising in daylight, remember that sunscreen and sunglasses are still a good idea even if it is cold out.  Chapstick and/or hand lotion can help to limit the drying effects of cold air and wind on lips and skin.

5) Recover post-workout with healthy warm food and drink. There are plenty of hearty and healthy warm soups and beverages that can warm you up after being out in the cold.   In particular, you might try drinking a hot chocolate, which according to this article in Runtastic, is a ‘perfect recovery drink’.  The cacao in hot chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties that can boost a body’s health.  And combining cacao with milk provides a beverage with both carbohydrates and protein, which can reduce fatigue and aid in muscle recovery.  Yummy!

Whatever your winter activity may involve, we hope that you enjoy this seasonal respite from hot weather!

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