Weekly Wellness: Staying warm and safe during winter exercise

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COLUMBIA - The temperatures are starting to drop and for those of us who like to exercise outside that can cause some problems. Not everyone enjoys exercising inside and some of us (those who have dogs) don't have much of a choice. It's important to stay safe while exercising outside during cold weather.

There are some health conditions that would require the approval of your physician before heading out of doors in the cold weather. So if you have asthma, heart problems or Raynaud's disease, call your physician to discuss any special precautions that might be required.

Here are some easy safety tips from the Mayo clinic to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention to weather conditions and wind chill. The risk of frostbite increases as wind chill falls so make sure to minimize any exposed skin if the wind chill is below -18 F and/or if the temperature dips below 0 F.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. The early warning signs of frostbite include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. In either case, if you are experiencing warning signs, seek emergency care.
  • Dress in layers. Your first layer should be a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body (sometimes referred to as wicking). Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
  • Protect your head, hands, feet and ears. When you're in cold weather, blood flow in the body is concentrated on your body's core which leaves your extremities more vulnerable. Make sure to keep them covered and protected.
  • Don't forget safety gear - and sunscreen. If you're exercising during a cold but sunny day, you can still get sunburned so protect your skin and lips. Protect your eyes from glare with glasses (or goggles). If you're exercising at night, wear something reflective. If you are prone to falls, or ground conditions are icy, consider footwear with good traction.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration is just as important during cold weather as it is in warm. Make sure to drink enough water and, if necessary, rehydrate with a sports drink.

Don't let the cold weather keep you from doing what you enjoy when it comes to exercising outdoors, just be smart about it.