You made a new year's resolution to get more exercise. Now you're getting ready to head out the door for a brisk walk or run. Good for you! But when the weather turns bad, make sure you are prepared for exercising in the cold.
In winter weather, it's important to keep yourself warm enough to enjoy your walk. But it's also important to avoid overheating or sweating too much. And some medical conditions make working out in the cold unsafe. If you have asthma, talk with your doctor before exercising outdoors in the cold.
Whether you're doing an exercise routine or just playing, there's a secret to staying comfortable in cold weather: Dress in layers. Layers provide insulation. Air gets trapped in between each piece of clothing. Your body heats up the captured air. Then the warm air keeps you toasty. You'll feel warm, and your body will be protected from frostbite.
You don't have to wear so many layers of clothing that you can't move well enough to enjoy yourself. The National Safe Kids Campaign recommends several thin layers to keep you dry as well as warm. The layer closest to your skin should be made of material that wicks, or draws away, moisture from your skin and transfers it to the outer layers.
There's loads of winter exercise gear made of high-tech fabric available today. In this part of the country, we may not need special equipment as much as people in, say, Minnesota or Vermont. But special lightweight fabrics can make exercising more comfortable. Long underwear made of a fabric called polypropylene will keep you very warm, for example, although old-fashioned wool is a good choice, too. Avoid cotton, which soaks up sweat and holds it close to the body, where it can make you feel cold.
Next, according to Safe Kids, put on a turtleneck, a shirt, a sweater and a coat or jacket. The outer layer should be windproof. Add warm socks and boots, and you're ready to go.
Well, almost. You'll need sunscreen for skin that will not be covered by clothing. And you'll need lip balm that contains sunscreen, too.
Now can you go out? Not yet.
You know how adults are always telling you to keep your hat on in cold weather? There's a good reason for that. Half of your body heat escapes through your head and neck! So keep your head covered on cold days. And wear a scarf, too. Scarves made of synthetic fleece are a good choice because they block the wind without feeling scratchy on your skin.
Finally, wear gloves or mittens. Exposed fingers are especially susceptible to frostbite. Even though they can be a little awkward, mittens are warmer than gloves, because your fingers aren't separated and can warm each other. And there's more room in a mitten for trapped air to insulate your hands.
Even in winter, it's important to drink plenty of water when you exercise. You need it just as much as you do in hot weather. You may not realize how much water you're losing as you walk or play outside because you don't sweat as obviously. But in wintertime your body uses extra water to moisturize the cold, dry air you inhale. So when the cold weather comes, button up your jacket, put your hat on and drink a glass of water before you head out to honor that resolution.
Tips for Parents
Children lose body heat more rapidly than adults when exposed to cold weather conditions because they have greater body surface compared with their weight, reports the Mayo Clinic. Children, therefore, are more likely to suffer from injury due to cold and chilling. It's important to watch carefully for frostbite, says the National Safe Kids Campaign. If a child complains of numbness or pain in the fingers, toes, nose, cheeks or ears or if the skin is blistered, hard to the touch or glossy, take these steps:
* Take the child indoors.
* Call a doctor.
* Tell the child to wiggle the affected body part to increase blood supply to the area.
* Warm the frozen part against the body.
* Immerse frozen parts in warm--not hot--water. Frozen tissue is fragile and easily damaged. Avoid warming with high heat from radiators, fireplaces or stoves, and avoid rubbing or breaking blisters.
For You to Do
Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have identified five stages people go through when they're trying to improve their health habits by doing something like beginning an exercise program, eating right or quitting smoking. They are:
Stage 1: Not even thinking about a specific change.
Stage 2: Thinking about the benefits of a change, but not taking any action.
Stage 3: Developing plans for a change.
Stage 4: Taking action.
Stage 5: Maintaining the new, healthful habit.
What stage have you reached when it comes to healthful habits? On a piece of paper, write down what stage you are in. Then write down things that you can do to move yourself to the next stage. You say you're already in Stage 5? Congratulations! Use your piece of paper to write down what you do every day to stay fit and healthy.