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Staying Safe and Fit When it's Cold

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don’t let the cold weather interrupt your exercise routine. There are many ways and opportunities to remain active during these cold winter months; you just need to get creative. Consider getting the kids involved by going sledding, skiing or even shoveling. The biggest concern when exercising outdoors in the cold weather is hypothermia, loss of body heat.

Heat loss is controlled two ways: insulation from body fat and your clothing, and environmental factors such as temperature and wind. Clothing is usually a good insulator because it traps air and doesn’t allow the heat to escape from the body. Wearing layers of clothing is beneficial in adapting to weather conditions. Choose clothing that can trap air but allows sweat to pass through. Avoid heavy cotton or tightly woven materials which will absorb and retain water, as water raises the risk of heat loss. Also, did you know that generally the heat loss from your head is about 50 percent at 32°F? Ward off heat loss by keeping your head covered at all times. You may also notice a loss of heat in your extremities. The hands and feet need to be protected during the cold weather because the blood flow is lessened to them in order to keep internal organs warmer.

Environmental factors, such as temperature and wind chill, are important to consider before heading outdoors. According to the National Safety Council, there is little danger to properly clothed individuals when exposed to 20°F, even with a 30 mph wind. Danger does exist for those exercising with exposed skin when the wind chill factor falls below -20°. To prevent danger, cover your nose and mouth to warm the air you are inhaling. It will not only keep you safe, but also allow you to keep up your exercise for a longer period of time.

When exercising in the cold weather, follow these recommendations.

• Watch the temperature and wind conditions before heading out. Do not go if conditions are at a dangerous level.
• Be sure to keep your hands, feet and especially your head covered and warm.
• Wear layers so you can adapt to weather conditions. Remember that you want to keep warm air closest to the body and wick away sweat which can trap the cold air allowing greater heat loss.
• Make sure the air you are inhaling is warm if temperatures are below your comfort level which is usually around 0°.

If you prefer not to exercise outdoors in cold weather stick to your routine by walking indoors, exercising with a DVD (rent one from the library), workout at home or at a local health club or take an exercise class. For more information on fitness classes or participating in the Start! Walking program at Fort Memorial Hospital, visit www.FortHealthCare.com.
 

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