Winterize Your Workout

Health, Home & Family
on December 16, 2001

Plummeting temperatures dont have to mean a drop in your workout routine. Wear the correct clothing and take a few precautions to enjoy your exercise program during even the coldest winter months.

It takes just as long to adapt to cold as it does to warm weatherusually two weeksso it helps to be prepared with the right clothing, says Patrick Bird, a professor of exercise and sports sciences at the University of Florida.

Wearing multiple layers of clothing is your best bet; how warm you stay depends on how you layer.

The first layer, next to your skin, should fit snugly and be lightweight. Look for material made from new breathable synthetics, such as polypropylene, found in some brands of thermal underwear. This fabric moves perspiration away from the skin. Avoid cotton, which loses all insulating ability when it soaks up moisture.

Polyester fleece, wool, or down are wise choices for the second layer, which should insulate you from wind and cold. Wool retains its insulating ability when wet.

The third and top clothing layer should act as a protective shell against wind, rain, and snow. Look for water-resistant fabrics with plenty of zipper or Velcro vents that allow your body to breathe, so you dont trap moisture.

Bird also recommends:

Wear a hat and gloves to retain body heat and prevent frostbite on the ears or fingertips. Protect exposed skin with a moisturizer, sunscreen, and lip balm. Wear a warm facemask made of a wool blend on particularly cold days, as up to 30 percent of the bodys heat is lost from the heads surface area.

Consider doing your warm-up indoors first, wearing only one or two layers. Once outdoors, remove or replace layers according to your activity level. Dont wear so much clothing that you start to sweat profusely, because sweating can reduce clothings insular quality.

Consider the wind chill factor when exercising in cold weather. Windy day air currents can increase the loss of body heat, as warmer insulating air surrounding the skin is continuously replaced by cooler air.

Choose shoes with good traction, especially if patches of ice are on your path. Wear shoes that absorb shock if youre running on hard, frozen surfaces.

Remember to take a water bottle; you can still become dehydrated even in cold weather. Also take along a bottle of sunscreen if snow is on the ground. Sunshine reflects off snow, causing sunburn.