• Samantha Hvasta, DPT

Cold weather exercising


Staying active can help beat the winter doldrums, keep you in shape and ready for spring. (Courtesy Photo)

It is cold, sometimes wet and the daylight hours are filled with work and family activities, but there is no need for your outdoor fitness routine to go into hibernation! Staying active can help beat the winter doldrums, keep you in shape and ready for spring. Here are some guidelines for staying safe while exercising in the cold:


Find a buddy. Recruit a friend to exercise with you and keep you motivated.


Lather up. Be sure to wear sunscreen and use ChapStick.


Dress in layers. Start with a thin layer made of wicking fabric. Stay away from cotton; it holds the moisture. An outer, breathable layer will help protect you against wind and precipitation. If it’s really cold, you’ll need a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for added insulation. If you’re wet after coming indoors, change your clothes and get warm as quickly as possible.


Protect your hands. As much as 30 percent of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. On mild days, wear running gloves that wick moisture away. Mittens are a better choice on colder days because your fingers will share heat.


Don’t forget your head. Wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss, so your circulatory system will have more heat to distribute to the rest of the body.


Pay attention to temperature and wind chill. If the wind is strong, it penetrates your clothes and removes the insulating layer of warm air around you. If the temperature dips below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20, it may be better to hit the treadmill instead.


Avoid overdressing. You’re going to warm up once you get moving, so you should feel a little bit chilly when you start out. A good rule of thumb: Dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is.


Watch for frostbite. Make sure to monitor your fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may feel numb at first, but should warm up a few minutes into your activity.


Get some shades. The glare from snow can cause snow blindness, so wear sunglasses with polarized lenses.


Stay hydrated. Despite the cold weather, you’ll still heat up and lose fluids through sweat. Cold air also has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration. So keep drinking water.


Check with your physician. Cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks in some people. Before braving the elements, talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions or concerns about exercising outdoors.


Call your local NovaCare Rehabilitation center or visit novacare.com today for more healthy tips and tricks.You can contact Samantha Hvasta, DPT, manager at NovaCare Rehabilitation located at the Blueberry Crossing Plaza at (609) 561-5308 or visit novacare.com.