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women running in the snow

Physical Activity & Cold Weather

As cold weather settles in, your exercise and physical activity may begin to decrease. Unfortunately, cold weather can discourage even the most dedicated physical activity enthusiasts. But cold weather doesn’t have to stop your outdoor activity in its tracks.

Stay healthy and fit during cold weather months by establishing a plan to exercise safely during cold weather. Talk with your doctor if you have any medical conditions prior to starting a new workout routine. Staying active throughout the year can help maintain strength, control weight gain and improve general well-being.

Plan to be safe and stay fit with these tips for exercising during cold weather:

  1. Don’t dress too warmly. A lot of heat is generated when you exercise that may cause you to sweat and you may become chilled once your sweat dries. Wear light layers and remove them as needed. The first layer should be a thin material that draws sweat away from the body. Avoid wearing cotton, which tends to cause sweat to pool on your skin.
  2. Protect your ears, hands and feet from frostbite. Wear a hat or headband to protect your ears from the cold. Consider wearing a thin pair of gloves under a heavier pair of gloves or mittens. Remove the heavier pair if your hands begin to sweat.
  3. Drink plenty of water even if you aren’t thirsty. Cold air has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration.
  4. Choose appropriate gear. Wear footwear with enough traction to avoid falls. If it’s dark outside, wear reflective clothing. Consider wearing shoes a half-size larger so you can wear thicker socks. Remember to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn and protect your eyes from snow glare with dark glasses or goggles.
  5. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia, as does being an older adult. Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, loss of coordination, and fatigue.
  6. Know your area’s weather forecast. Use common sense when faced with extreme weather conditions. If the temperature is below zero or the wind chill is minus 20, move your workout indoors.

If you currently aren’t physically active, you may want to view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for ideas to add physical activity to your life. The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes per week of physical activity a week and children get at least 60 minutes daily.

Written by Ann Schwader, Nutrition Field Specialist at SDSU Extension.