If you exercise regularly, it’s probably a very important part of your life that you hate to miss. But, considering that temperatures in Markham have been in the negative double digits for an extended amount of time recently, not only can it sap your motivation, but you might wonder if it’s OK to exercise in such cold temps.
If you’re not a regular exerciser, but you’ve been trying to get closer to Health Canada’s guidelines of two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, you might also wonder about whether to keep trying in severe cold. Without certain exercise equipment or a fitness centre membership, it can be difficult to get your heart rate up indoors.
Is It OK to Exercise in Very Cold Temperatures?
Generally speaking, yes, it’s OK to exercise, even to the point of heavy breathing, in cold air. Your nose, trachea and the back of your throat all help to warm and moisturize the air you breath (that’s why you get a runny nose). People with asthma or other breathing issues should use more caution when exercising in cold weather because the air temperature and dryness could bring on attacks and/or symptoms.
It’s really up to you. If deep-breathing cold air makes you uncomfortable or produces any symptoms you’re not sure about, maybe you should look for alternatives.
Precautions for Cold-Weather Exercising
So, if you like to exercise outside no matter what, the weather shouldn’t stop you. But there are a few precautions to stay safe, healthy and injury-free.
1. Dress Properly
If there is one tip that’s more important than others, this is it. Not dressing properly, whether it’s over-dressing or under-dressing, or dressing in the wrong materials, can increase your chances of feeling cold and even suffering hypothermia.
The base layer, the one next to your skin, should be a synthetic fabric designed to get sweat away from your skin. Sweat is the great and wonderful cooling system of your body, but as it evaporates, or gets cold while locked in the clothing next to your skin, it will draw heat from your body and make you feel chilled.
An insulating layer, made of fleece or wool, is next to keep your body temperature stable. The third and final layer should be waterproof, wind-resistant, breathable outer shell.
Make sure your extremities, including your head, hands and feet, are well protected too.
2. Pay Attention to Your Body
You know that twinge you sometimes get in your knee? It happens for a reason, which is to tell you your knee is tired or otherwise under stress. Yes, it goes away, but while it’s there you should probably ease off on it. Extreme cold temperatures can reduce your sensitivity to the twinges, aches and pains that can be the warning signs of trouble. If you feel anything, even slight discomfort, while exercising in the cold, pay attention to it.
Also, it’s important to know the signs of frost bite and hypothermia. Frost bite usually affects fingers and toes. If you feel numbness, especially if its followed by tingling or burning, it could be signs of frostbite and you should get out of the cold ASAP. And do the same and seek immediate medical attention if you start shivering intensely, experience slurred speech, loss of coordination and/or unusual fatigue; they are all signs of hypothermia.
3. Know Your Route & Stay Close to Home
Outdoor exercising in summer is great because you can choose a new route every day, explore your community and push yourself a little if you want to. But, especially when exercising in particularly cold temperatures, it’s important for you to remain in familiar territory and within striking distance of home, your office or other place where you know you can get warm.
Being familiar with where you’re walking, running or riding in winter can reduce your chances of hitting icy surfaces when you least expect them, which will reduce your chances of injury. And, considering that slips and falls might be more common in winter, as well as frost bite and/or hypothermia, being close to home can be helpful.
You really need to find out what works for you to make your outdoor winter exercising safe and healthy. If you feel better in a thicker layer of clothing, then go with it. But simply by being more mindful of winter’s conditions, temperatures and risks, you should be able to keep active outside all year long.