Physical activity during cold weather is achievable

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 28, 2019

Old Man Winter has finally made his appearance in the Bluegrass. And while his return may have you spending more time indoors, it does not mean you have to give up physical activity until warmer weather returns.

Exercising outdoors during the winter can have benefits in addition to the burned calories. It exposes you to sunlight, which will give you some vitamin D and can help improve your mood. It can boost your immune system, which is important during flu and cold season. Plus, there is no heat and humidity.

With a little preparation, precaution and attention, most people can safely work out in cold weather. However, some medical conditions such as asthma or heart problems may not allow you to exercise outdoors during cold weather. Always check with your doctor first.

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Check the forecast before venturing outdoors. Remember to check for actual temperature as well as wind chill. Windier days make the actual temperature feel colder. If the weather is calling for a cold rain, ice or snow, consider exercising indoors or waiting to exercise until the system passes.

When exercising outside on cold days, make sure you wear light layers. The layer closest to your skin should be some type of moisture-wicking fabric to keep sweat to a minimum as it is going to make you feel colder. Avoid cotton fabrics as they tend to trap moisture. Try to cover as much of your skin as possible. Wear a toboggan or hat, scarf and gloves. You may also want to consider wearing thermal or double layers of socks to keep your feet warm. Wear shoes with good traction and avoid walking or running over areas that appear slick. Know the signs of frost bite and hyperthermia.

Even though it’s cold, you need to keep your body hydrated. Dry, cold air can cause you to become dehydrated and because it is cold, symptoms of dehydration are even harder to recognize. Drink even if you are not thirsty.

If it’s too cold or wet to exercise outside, you can still work out indoors. Dancing is a great way to burn calories in your home. So turn up the tunes and let loose. Climbing stairs and active housework such as vacuuming or sweeping are also good ways to burn some calories.

Many communities may offer indoor walking facilities that you can access for little to no cost. If not, walking through a mall or big box store is also an opportunity to get in some steps.

For more ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, contact your Bell County Extension Office.

Rebecca Miller is the Bell County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. Source: Natalie Jones, family health extension specialist.