Halloween is over, the leaves have fallen and we are beginning to move into the colder weather. I have had many patients express to me their disappointment that their outdoor exercising is coming to an end as winter approaches. They are not keen on moving inside to a treadmill, or joining a spin class. So my response to them… don’t! You can continue to enjoy outdoor activities and reap the benefits of exercising outdoors all year! Cold temperatures, snow and ice do not necessarily have to be reasons to move inside. You just need to be smart, remember a few key tips and dress properly. Read on to better understand the benefits of exercising outdoors, and some tips to help you prepare for the colder weather!
A decrease in temperature, means an increase in endorphins!
Exercising outdoors has been proven to boost your energy, attitude and decrease tension and depression. We have all heard of endorphins- the “feel good” hormone- that increase in your body with any type exercise. In the colder temperatures, your body has to work harder to increase body temperature, metabolism and heart rate, which results in an increase in endorphin production. Continuing to exercise outdoors as the temperature drops will keep you fit and healthy but will also boost your energy and mood!
In addition, many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter months, a mood condition brought on by shorter days, more darkness and less sunlight. By making it a priority to get out and exercise daily, you increase your exposure to natural light, and thus decrease the risk of feeling depressed and suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Yet another benefit to keep exercising outside!
Think you can only get dehydrated when exercising in hot temperatures? WRONG! Dehydration is one of the biggest problems people face when exercising in colder temperatures. Most people don’t feel as thirsty when it’s cold, and therefore do not consume as much fluid. However, studies have shown that cold actually inhibits the sensation of thirst. Simply, blood moves away from the extremities and into the body’s core (to keep the internal organs warm). Since the fluid level in the central body doesn’t drop, the kidneys don’t get the signal to conserve fluid, and thus dehydration is more likely to occur. The thirst response decreases by about 40 percent in cold temperatures. This is something to be aware of when exercising in the colder temperatures and make sure your liquid intake is sufficient.
To stay warm when exercising in colder temperatures, your body needs to generate heat. It is a good idea to eat complex carbohydrates two hours before exercise. The more fuel to burn, the more heat your body can generate. During long periods of exercises eat small amounts at frequent intervals. It is a basic equation- if you don’t replace the energy you’re consuming; you will get chilled (and tired!) more easily.
Exercise generates heat; so resist the temptation to bundle up. If you start to sweat, you’ll get cold when that sweat dries. Avoid wearing cotton. Instead, dress in layers. Start with a thin synthetic layer to wick away sweat. Try a wool or fleece layer next, and top it off with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. If it’s really cold, you might want a face mask or scarf to warm air before you breathe it in.
Don’t forget your extremities
When the temperature drops, that body works to protect and warm the vital organs. Blood flow is directed towards your core and diminished to your hands and feet. Wear gloves and warm socks. Be aware of the signs of frostbite so you can catch it in time! These signs include, slightly painful, prickly or itching sensation, red, white, pale or grayish-yellow skin, hard or waxy-looking skin, a cold or burning feeling, or numbness.
Beware of ice
Cold temperatures often bring along black ice. Be aware of this. Stick to exercising on well shoveled and salted areas and make sure you wear shoes with good traction to prevent falling.
So bundle up, and get outdoors!
The colder temperature is no excuse not to exercise outside!
Dress appropriately, drink water and have fun!