Exercise? In this weather? What you need to know before you do – The Irish Times

It’s good to decide to get out and exercise more, but is it safe when it’s dark? How cold is very cold? I interviewed two sports medicine doctors and sports scientists, all of whom are also outdoor sports enthusiasts, to get their thoughts.

The good news: Yes, you can continue to exercise outside when the weather is cold — up to a point.

“We bike all winter, and we bike in the dark and in the cold,” said Dr. Tom Fleeter, an orthopedic surgeon and sports physician, referring to himself and his wife. But there are extra steps to take to stay safe from the elements, oncoming traffic and other threats that rise in the winter months.

Look and be seen

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to be able to see where you’re going and to make sure others see you. “Just last week, I was taking care of a nurse who broke her leg jogging at five in the morning before daylight,” Dr Fleeter said. He was walking in a dark area, couldn’t see and fell, he said.

If you’re outdoors when it’s dark, Dr. Fleeter recommends using a headlamp. Or you can use a handheld flashlight or attach a small light to your shoe, suggests Dr. Elan Goldwaser, a primary care sports medicine physician. However, remember, your visibility will still be limited because your light will cast shadows behind the obstacles you encounter. “You will see the branch, but you really will not be able to see what is behind it until you get to it,” Dr. Goldwaser explained.

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If you exercise on the road, it is also important that vehicles can see you, said Sara Terrell, a sports scientist at Florida Southern College. Try wearing neon colors – not black or navy blue – as well as reflective items that shine when the headlights are on. (Budget option: stick reflective tape on your clothes, says Terrell.)

Consider placing reflective items on parts of your body that move a lot — maybe your ankles or arms — to show drivers you’re moving, which will make them pay more attention, he said.

Also, if you’re listening to music or a podcast, keep one earbud on to listen to traffic, Terrell advises. This is good advice in any season. Face oncoming traffic so that if the vehicle doesn’t see you, you can jump out of the way if necessary. (But always cycle in the same direction as the car.)

Dress for the weather

If you exercise where it is cold, the experts we interviewed recommend wearing three layers: a layer made of synthetic materials that absorb moisture; a warmer middle layer, possibly made of fur or wool; and a light outer shell that protects against wind and rain. Stay away from cotton, Terrell said, which absorbs water and sweat and cools the body, increasing the risk of hypothermia.

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If it’s raining, consider wearing a hat with a visor to make it easier to see, Terrell said. A hat or thin balaclava can also help keep you warm because a lot of heat is lost through the head, Fleeter added. And don’t forget warm gloves and socks (maybe wool). When the body is cold, blood moves away from the extremities to keep the core warm, making hands and feet (and ears) susceptible to frostbite, Terrell says.

Make sure you also have the right shoes for the weather, says Dr. Goldwaser. When it’s raining, snowing or icy, you’ll want shoes with significant tread on the bottom to ensure good traction. (That said, if there’s enough ice or snow, you might want to stay indoors, says Dr. Fleeter.)

Prepare and nourish your body

When exercising in low temperatures, keep hydrated, even if you’re not thirsty, says Dr Fleeter. When you’re cold, your body releases a hormone called vasopressin that constricts blood vessels and also suppresses thirst, so you don’t feel like you need to drink water even if you do, he says. Also, when you exercise in the cold, your body burns extra calories to stay warm, so you may want to eat a bit more than usual to keep your energy up.

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Be sure to stretch your muscles before outdoor winter training, says Dr. Goldwaser, because muscles and ligaments tend to tear in the cold. He recommends dynamic stretching, which is slow and brief on different muscle groups. Dynamic stretching can be safer than static stretching, which you hold for longer periods of time, he says, because static stretching can stress cold muscles.

If you’re exercising outside alone, you should tell someone where you’re going or bring your phone in case you get hurt.

Know when to stay home

Do not exercise outdoors during storms, Dr. Goldwaser said; the chance of being struck by lightning is small but significant enough to be careful. Terrell recommends checking the weather forecast before an outdoor excursion to make sure the weather is not expected. If you occasionally need to move your workout indoors, “have a plan B,” says Terrell, so you can still exercise. I barre videos in my basement, for example.

Dr. Fleeter says you shouldn’t exercise outside when the temperature or wind is too cold. If you’re cycling, you’re exposed to the wind, which will make you cooler, says Dr Fleeter.

With so many new safety strategies in my toolbox, I’m excited to be walking outside during the winter — but I’m also not one to forget. On bad, cold days, I’ll grind my teeth through plié squats. “That’s smart about Nature,” Terrell said. “He usually wins.” – This article originally appeared on New York Times


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