Back to Living Better

How to safely exercise outdoors in the winter

Frigid temperatures and bracing winds can be enough to make anyone curl up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate until springtime. But did you know exercising outdoors in cold weather can actually have some benefits? Follow these tips and experience a more fit you by the time warmer weather rolls around.

As with any workout routine, get your physician’s okay before embarking on a new exercise program.

The benefits of cold weather exercise

“Your body burns more calories when exercising outdoors in the winter because it’s utilizing more energy to keep the body warm and sustain activity,” says Jasmin Theard, ACSM HFS, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. “It’s invigorating, plus you’ll get fresh air, vitamin D and a change of scenery.”

The best winter workouts

So which type of exercise is best when the temperatures drop? Theard has two criteria:

“Do something you enjoy – if you don’t enjoy your workout routine, you won’t stick with it,” she explains. “However, particularly when it’s cold, you should stick to more intense cardio workouts so you can stay warm.”

Think: Running, power walking, biking or hiking.

Outdoor workout attire

Safety is paramount when exercising in extreme temperatures.

“Everyone has a different tolerance level, but the best thing you can do is dress properly,” says Theard.

  • Start with a good base layer. Choose clothing with dry fit fabrics that wick away moisture. Cotton can hold onto moisture and once it gets wet, you can become too cold.
  • Choose form-fitting attire. It helps insulate your body.
  • Accessorize. When you’re exercising, blood flows to your core, which means your hands, feet and ears can get cold quickly. Wear gloves, a warm hat and ear muffs.
  • Protect your feet. Wear only one layer of socks and choose a pair designed to wick away moisture. Doubling up your socks can cause your feet to sweat and with cold weather exercise, you want to stay as dry as possible.

When to take exercise indoors

“Stay in tune with your body,” says Theard.

Signs you need to take it inside:

  • You start to shiver.
  • Your clothing becomes wet from sweat, rain, sleet or snow.
  • Your breathing is more labored than usual or you can’t catch your breath.
  • You experience extreme cold in your extremities.  

Outdoor exercise safety

Regardless of the season, Theard recommends the following tips to stay safe when taking your routine outdoors. 

  • Bring your mobile phone with you.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Warm up first to avoid muscle injury.
  • Stay hydrated before, during and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Indoor fitness options

If you can’t stomach winter’s freezing temps, try one of these indoor fitness options:

  • Climb stairs at the office or at home.
  • Try a workout DVD or online video in your living room. There are hundreds of varieties, from yoga to kickboxing to weight training.
  • Walk around the mall at a brisk pace.
  • Play a fitness video game.
  • Do circuits of simple calisthenics, like jumping jacks, crunches, pushups and lunges.

Don’t let winter serve as an excuse to be a couch potato. Taking the time to move will boost your immunity, keep you energized and ward off the winter blues.

Click here for more fitness tips as well as follow-along exercise videos. 

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

 

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online