Is Cold Weather Exercise Safe? 5 Tips on Maintaining Core Body Temp

Is Cold Weather Exercise Safe?

Posted on: December 18, 2014

Safe Exercise in Cold Weather | Mercy Medical Canton OhioIf you are an outdoor exercise enthusiast and live in a place like Ohio, cold-weather workouts are inevitable. I’ve heard people say that winter workouts are not safe, but, as an exercise physiologist and long-time runner, I disagree. If you wear the appropriate winter workout clothing and follow a few simple safety tips, chilly temps won’t stop you from getting the exercise you love. 

The biggest risk of cold weather exercise is hypothermia. Our body is built to maintain a balanced core temperature. When the temperature drops, our bodies shift blood from our hands and feet to the core to protect internal organs.

5 Tips to Help Your Body Maintain Balaced Core Temperature

1. Hats are a must when doing anything outside that causes exertion.
If your body is fully clothed for winter weather exposure but your head is not, you’re going to lose body heat.

Richard Ingebretsen, MD, PhD, University of Utah School of Medicine, makes an excellent point. In a WebMD post on body heat loss, he says, “If you don’t have a hat on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts. There’s really no such thing as ‘cold’ when you’re talking about the body. There’s always heat – it’s just a matter of keeping it in.”

So, do what your mom always told you to do. Wear a hat!

2. Wear a good pair of gloves and moisture-wicking socks.
Keeping your hands and feet warm during an outdoor winter workout is also critical. A good pair of gloves, as well as socks that keep moisture away from your feet, can prevent frostbite or risk of hypothermia.

3. Don a scarf or protective mask.
Winter air is not only cold, it’s also dry, making it hard to breathe comfortably when you’re exerting yourself. A scarf or protective mask can help. Your own exhalation will moisten the air near your nose and mouth as you inhale.

4. Layer your clothes.
When temps dip below 40 degrees, it’s time to layer. Proper layering is the key to warmth – and cooling off if you get too hot during your workout. In another blog post, I talked about the six clothing must-haves for winter workouts and provided a handy layer temperature guide. Check it out! 

5. Pay attention to your shivering and the air temperature.
If you begin to shiver while outside, that’s your body’s defense mechanism and warning sign to get indoors to warm up the core temperature. If it falls below zero, exercising outdoors is no longer safe, and you should switch to an indoor regimen until it warms up.

When you follow these five tips and listen to your body, there’s no need to stop exercising outdoors in reasonably cold weather. Stay safe and enjoy the season!

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Looking for some exercise coaching or a great place to workout, no matter what the season? The Mercy Health & Fitness Center in North Canton might be exactly what you’re looking for. Contact us for more information. 


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