The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

With Christmas approaching the inevitable drop in temperature is upon us. The good news is that this colder weather brings with it a plethora of outdoor winter activities to enjoy. People often have very practical reasons for wanting to avoid the outdoors as the temperature drops, the most common are a fear of getting hypothermia or severe frostbite. Thankfully if you prepare properly and plan ahead you can safely avoid these risks.

The most important thing when exercising outdoors in the cold is to ensure you are dressed appropriately. Here are some tips on how to best face the frigid temperatures:

Do’s and Don’ts of Dressing for Winter 

Do – Dress in layers. Multiple thin layers is actually warmer than one thick layer, also this allows you to make adjustments if you get to warm/cold.

Don’t – Overdress. If you are too warm you will sweat and make your clothes wet. Wet clothes will cause you to cool down quickly once you slow down.  

Do – Wear a hat and mittens. This one may seem obvious but it is none the less important. To help keep you warm and prevent frostbite you want as little of your skin visible as possible.  

Don’t – Wear cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and does not retain its ability to insulate once it gets wet.

Do – Wear moisture wicking materials. Polypropylene and wool are able to help keep moisture away from the body. This helps limit the cooling effects of sweating, they are also able to continue to insulate even if they get wet.  

Don’t – Assume warmer is safer. Moderately cold weather that is very damp can still put you at risk for hypothermia.

Dressing properly is not the only thing that can be done to stay safe while exercising during the winter. It is important to keep track of your fluid intake. If the weather is cold and dry, your body will lose more moisture as you breathe because your body adds moisture to the air. This loss of moisture combined with the fact that cold actually makes you feel less thirsty could quickly lead to dehydration. Bring fluids with you at all times, but ensure they are insulated. If the fluids become very cold they will bring your core body temperature down.

If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to participate in the many outdoor activities that are available during these colder months. Whether you are enjoying a day at the ski hill, playing some shinny hockey during your lunch break or taking part in some good old fashioned snow fort building there are so many ways to stay active and enjoy the winter months.


References

Castellani, J., & Young, A. (2012). Health and performance challenges during sports training and competition in cold weather. British Journal Of Sport Medicine, 46(11), 1-5.

Clark, N. (2013). Winter nutrition. American Fitness, 31(6), 66-67.

Clark, N. (2012). Winter Nutrition – Fueling for Cold Weather Exercise. ACSM Fit Society Page, 8-9. 4. Jett, D., Adams, K., & Stamford, B. (2006). Cold Exposure and Exercise Metabolism. Sports Medicine, 36(8), 643-656.

Noakes, T. (2002) Chapter 2: Exercise and the cold. Advances in Sport, Leisure & Ergonomics, 13-31.

Pavlik, A. (2012) Don’t Let Winter Weather FREEZE Your Workouts. American Fitness, 30(6), 32-33. 7. Young, A. J., & Castellani, J. W. (2007). Exertional fatigue and cold exposure: mechanisms of hiker’s hypothermia. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, 32(4), 793-798.