December and January have been freezing cold! Can you still exercise outside in the winter? Of course! But with some precautions…
“People who enjoy exercising outside during winter need to be wary of the effects plunging temperatures can have on their lungs, according to a University of Alberta cold-weather exercise physiologist.”
If it’s below -15C, you’d be better off moving any intense workouts indoors to protect your lungs from the cold air. If it’s cold but not freezing-temperature-warning cold, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for exercising in cold weather:
1. Do an indoor warmup.
Especially in colder temperatures, warming up is essential to prepare your joints and muscles and to reduce the likelihood of injuries. Starting your warmup indoors will ensure that your muscles are prepped and ready to go before you head out and will also help dilate your lungs before you hit the cold outside air.
2. Be mindful of your clothing.
Most people think to dress warm with lots of layers when they head outside in cold weather, but it’s also important to dress dry. Wet fabric will make you feel much colder and increase your risk of hypothermia, so opt for moisture-wicking materials and remove wet clothing as soon as you get back inside.
3. Cover your mouth to reduce the harmful effect of cold air on your lungs.
Cold air narrows your airways and makes breathing much more difficult, especially when your body is working harder to heat and humidify the frigid air being inhaled. Use a buff, bandana, or scarf to slightly cover your nose and mouth and trap the warm air in.
4. Drink lots of water!
Many people don’t realize how thirsty they are when exercising in cold weather because the low temperature doesn’t make us feel as dehydrated. We also don’t often realize how much we sweat in cold weather, but your body is still working hard and it’s important to replace those lost fluids after your workout.
Fresh air and exercise are important year-round, so don’t be discouraged by cold temperatures or feel like you have to hibernate all winter. If you’re determined to exercise outside, be mindful of the temperature and use the tips above to prepare your body. You should also consider modifying to a lower-intensity workout plan and saving the high-intensity workouts for an indoor gym or recreation centre. Stay safe and stay warm!