Exercising Outside: Tips to Keep in Mind as the Temperature Drops

You might be in denial, but winter is steadily approaching. The days are getting shorter and temperatures are getting lower. So what do these changes mean for those who enjoy exercising outside? Are there certain precautions that you need to take, or do you need to avoid the cold altogether? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

How Cold Is Too Cold?

Before addressing any of the more detailed concerns, you're probably wondering whether it's ever too cold to work out outside. According to science, the simple answer is "no." According to The New York Times, a team of experts reviewed research on exercising in the cold for a position paper for the American College of Sports Medicine. They found that there is no temperature at which it is simply too cold to exercise outside. To illustrate this, consider the fact that athletes routinely swim in water that is well below freezing. Various cultures even live and work—and exercise—in colder environments safely.

The Real Problems

While it's safe to exercise in the cold, that doesn't mean that just anyone can run outside in frigid temperatures and perform at the level they do during other parts of the year. Certain precautions are definitely necessary. Interestingly, though, these steps probably aren't what you expect. For example, when preparing to exercise in the cold, most people will immediately think to bundle up. Unfortunately, it's pretty easy to go overboard and put on too many layers, which could put you at risk for overheating. This is especially important if you're wearing fabrics that prevent moisture from escaping your skin. This will trap heat close to your body and make it hard to control your internal temperature properly.

People also tend to stop exercising when they feel cold. Again, this may make sense in theory, but can be problematic in practice. The more you move, the more heat your body produces. That heat is what allows you to counteract the cold air around you. So in order to maintain a healthy body temperature, you need to keep moving.

Safe Alternatives

Aside from applying the aforementioned principles, there are a few other things you can do to stay safe while exercising outside. First, choose your outdoor activities wisely. While some extreme athletes will swim in freezing water, this is generally not the best idea. Hypothermia is a very real concern in those situations. It's also important to remember that winter conditions can include snow and ice, not just cold air. Be careful when running or walking in order to avoid falling and injuring yourself.

Of course, the most obvious alternative to working out in the cold is to simply move indoors. Find an alternative routine that you can follow inside or join a gym for the colder season. For instance, if you love to run outside, you might have to spend the winter running on a treadmill in a temperature-controlled environment. You could even switch it up by taking advantage of a new seasonal sport such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, or snowboarding.

As the temperature outside continues to drop, keep these tips in mind as you plan your winter workout routine. They will help keep you safe and performing your best as you work out this winter.

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