Winter is upon us! Often it makes us feel lethargic and less motivated to go outside to exercise. It can be tough to head outside on rainy or snowy days. Before you curl up beside your cozy fireplace and start binge-watching Netflix, take a moment to consider the potential benefits of cold-weather workouts. As your body works harder to adjust its temperature to the cold, you will burn a few more calories during your wintry workout compared to indoor workouts. You will get a good dose of vitamin D, a critical nutrient to support your body’s immune system. Cold-weather exercise also can boost your mood as you experience an endorphin rush during your workout.
These winter exercise tips will help you stay warm and enjoy the experience when working out in cold weather:
- Pick an exercise you enjoy. Consider any of the following: walking, running, hiking, ice skating, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing. If you focus on something you enjoy, you are more likely to stick with it.
- Protect yourself. Winter weather is not just cold, it is dry. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Eight 8-ounce glasses per day is a good place to start. Be sure to rub moisturizing lotion on your face, hands, and lips. I like to use Aquaphor Healing Ointment for my lips and Cetaphil Moisturizing for my face and hands. I also use Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, a lightweight lotion with sunscreen, which is important to protect against the damaging UVA and UVB rays that can cause premature lines and wrinkles, even on cloudy days.
- Keep comfortable. Wear layers. It is a good idea to dress in layers. The first layer should be synthetic — something that will wick moisture away from your skin. The second layer should be fleece or wool to insulate you from the cold. The third layer should be a breathable, waterproof layer to help repel wind and rain. Try to avoid cotton; it tends to lose its insulating power when it becomes moist. Once you start exercising, your body temperature will rise. Start removing layers as you heat up — you do not want to get too sweaty. It is easy to remove a layer and tie it around your waist. If you get cold, you can just put it back on.
- Cover up! Since our blood flow stays concentrated in the core part of our body, our head, arms, legs, and toes are more susceptible to the cold. Be sure to wear a hat, gloves, and wool socks.
- Buddy-up safely. Find an exercise buddy to work out with safely (social distanced and wearing masks). If you exercise alone, you may be tempted to skip an exercise session. By exercising with a buddy, there is some social pressure to help keep you accountable. The camaraderie makes the time pass quickly, and you’re less likely to get bored. Depending on when and where you like to work out, having a friend with you can keep you safe. Are you having a hard time finding a buddy? Do not hesitate to take your dog (or a neighbor’s dog!) for a walk.
- Avoid frostbite. The first sign of frostbite is numbness, followed by a tingling or burning sensation. According to Joe Bergen, DO, FACEP, chief of Emerson’s emergency department, “If you suspect frostbite, head back inside and warm the suspected area gradually by running it under lukewarm water or wrapping it in a warm blanket.”
- Enjoy the view. Be sure to take in your surroundings and appreciate the peaceful beauty of a New England winter. See if you can spot some birds like the American goldfinch, blue jays, cardinals, a tufted titmouse, or even a snowy owl.
If you try all the above tips and you just don’t like exercising outside, be sure to check out the Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind and Body for a wide variety of virtual classes. They can keep you healthy in the comfort of your home.
So don’t let the winter drive your fitness plan into hibernation — you do not need to wait until spring to get back outside.
About the Author
Kaitlin (Kait) Schuster is a senior at Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts. She lives in Sudbury with her parents, sister, three cats, and a dog. As a student-athlete, she makes exercising a top priority.