Heading out into the snowy landscape for an outdoor winter workout? Whether you’re running, hiking, cycling, or simply going for your daily walk, exercising outside during the pristine winter months can offer you unique benefits.
Cold weather workouts are chilling yet thrilling, there are fewer people out and about in your way, you sweat less than you do in hot weather, and you get healthy natural light exposure that can improve your mood and combat seasonal depression. If you’re venturing out into the cold for some exercise in the next few months, keep these four important reminders in mind:
Prepare for shorter, darker days
Did you know that there are almost six fewer hours on the shortest day of the year, the December 21st winter solstice, as there are on the longest day of the year, the June 21st summer solstice? It’s much easier to get caught off-guard by an early sunset when you are exercising outdoors during the winter than any other time of year.
Low light combined with inclement weather can quickly increase your risk of injury so avid outdoor enthusiasts should always check both weather forecasts as well as sunset times each afternoon before heading out to exercise.
Protect against colder, drier air
Cold, dry winter air primarily generates a two-fold hazard to your health. Exposure to low temperatures can increase your chances of developing hypothermia and dry air can excessively pull moisture out of your body.
Per the first danger, it is critical that you wear appropriate layers of warm, breathable clothing when working out in cold temperatures. While you sweat less in the cold, you still do sweat and moisture on your body combined with cold air and wind can drop your internal body temperature fast. Layers of clothing allow you more control over your own body temperature during your workout.
In regards to dry air, make sure to protect your skin against drying out and cracking by applying products like lotions, salves, creams, and petroleum jellies that help lock in moisture. Target commonly exposed body parts like your face, lips, and nose and keep up with your water consumption too, even if you don’t necessarily feel as thirsty in the winter.
Prevent common winter injuries
Cold weather injuries commonly include those directly related to slipping and falling in snow or ice – wrist sprains, ankle breaks, concussions, skier’s thumb, etc. Those types of injuries can sideline your workout routine for weeks (and even months) so be mindful of adapting your fitness routine to the most up-to-date weather forecasts and take smart steps to reinforce your safety.
Wear proper footwear that offers strong ankle support and good grip with the ground. Use trekking or Nordic poles when walking or hiking outside in slick, icy conditions. If you have previously sprained your ankle or wrist, utilize orthotic aids that stabilize the joint during your workouts (see a list of the best wrist braces here: https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/wrist-brace). And always seek a medical evaluation in the event you do fall and hit your head or incur a musculoskeletal injury.
Plan for busy holiday schedules
Do you use your hectic holiday schedule as an excuse to skip more of your workouts during the winter? Unfortunately, less exercise combined with more indulging (ahem, holiday parties) can spell disaster for your waistline and your health. Motivate yourself to keep up with routine exercise no matter where your holiday travels take you by setting goals and planning ahead.
Sign up for an athletic event, like a charity race, that takes place early in the New Year so you have an extra reason to stay on the fitness wagon during winter. Pack helpful tools when traveling, like resistance bands, so you have what you need to do a quick workout in your hotel room. And incorporate more physical activity into your daily life during the holidays like taking stairs instead of elevators and parking further away from your shopping destinations so you get more steps in.
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