Stay safe while staying active during the cold months

We all know the importance of engaging in regular physical activity. But in the cold fall and winter months, it is important to follow some safety strategies to prevent injuries.

When the weather is beautiful outside, it is easier to get outside and exercise. Swimming, walking and hiking are fun to do when the sun is shining and the breeze is warm. With the changing seasons and cooler temperatures, exercising outside in the cold and wet weather can be disheartening as well as pose additional safety risks.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a comprehensive set of physical activity recommendations for Americans. The Physical Activity Guidelines (2008) for Americans provides a set of guidelines for children, adults and older adults to follow with the goal of improving individual health outcomes and consequently decreasing health risks like stroke, heart disease or Type II diabetes.

These guidelines recommend the following frequency and amounts of physical activity based on age and abilities:

  • Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (one hour) or more of physical activity daily.
  • Adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • To receive more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (five hours) a week of moderate intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.

There are specific guidelines for adults with disabilities, pregnant or older adults. See these for more detailed information.

So how do you get the required amount of exercise when the walkways are slippery and the air is cold? There are several safety strategies you can implement to stay safe while getting your workout.

  • Dress in Layers. While you work out, you will get warmed up. Wear a layer of wicking clothing to keep sweat away from your body. Add another layer of warmth like fleece for insulation. Add a waterproof jacket that breathes.
  • Protect your hands feet and ears from frostbite. Wear a thin pair of gloves under a warmer pair lined with fleece. Be sure to wear thick socks and a head band for your ears.
  • Use gear that gets you noticed and keeps you moving. Try adding extra traction to your shoes and wear reflective clothing. During the fall and winter months, there is less daylight, so the reflectors make sure everyone sees you.
  • Be aware of temperature and wind chill. Avoid getting soaked as you may not be able to warm up. If the temperatures are extreme, you may want to work out inside.

Keeping active is important and part of a healthy lifestyle. Doing it safely during the cold months is essential to having exercise be fun and injury-free.

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