While the cold weather can discourage even the most motivated athletes, exercise science professor Heidi Freeman, PhD, at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia has compiled seasonal fitness tips to keep individuals fit, inspired, and warm during the winter months.
"Once chilly weather arrives, the temptation to skip your outdoor exercise routine can often be very strong," said Dr. Freeman, program director of exercise science and wellness management at USciences. "However, the cold weather does not have to mean an end to outdoor exercise, and it certainly shouldn't intimidate exercisers."
In fact, Dr. Freeman said using commonsense and preparing well for the chilly weather allows individuals to exercise safely and enjoyably all winter long:
•Dress the part. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat, then put back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body; and avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
•Protect your hands, feet, and ears. Protect your extremities from frostbite by wearing a thin pair of gloves under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Also, wear a thermal hat or headband to protect your ears.
•Hydrate. Even if it's not as obvious as in the summer, you're still sweating during cold-weather workouts and pushing yourself, so drink plenty of water.
•Pay attention to weather. Exercising when it is cold and raining can make you more vulnerable to the cold. Similarly, wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. Consider taking your workout indoors if the weather is exceptionally cold and wet.
•Stay accountable. Because the daylight hours are limited during the winter months, stay safe by letting someone know your exercise plan and when you expect to be back.
The winter months are also a great time for outdoor exercisers to try different types of indoor fitness routines, said Dr. Freeman. For example, she suggests Zumba, rock climbing, and cycling classes offered at local fitness and recreation centers.
University of the Sciences