Winter sports are great fun and a wonderful way to maintain fitness during cold months. Downhill or cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating—or just walkin’ in a winter wonderland. Winter exercise can be hazardous to your health, though, if you’re not careful. The following tips will make your winter activities safer and more enjoyable.
• The number one rule for all activities is hydration. It’s just as true in the winter; you still need extra water. In fact, you need more water, and you’re not as likely to feel thirsty. Drink extra water before, during and after any winter activity.
• Pay more attention to warming up. Cold muscles are prone to injury, and in the winter they are colder and tenser than in warm months. Start at a lower level of exercise and take more time warming up in the winter.
• Dress in layers. The inside layer should be a thin layer of silk, wool or some material that wicks moisture away from your body. Cotton holds moisture, so it is not a good choice. Outer layers should be heavier and protect you from the cold, wet and wind. If you get too hot while you are exercising, remove the outermost layer of clothing.
• Stay dry. Hypothermia happens much more quickly and at higher temperatures if you get wet. In the winter, you don’t want to exercise to the point of sweating, and you do want clothes that wick the moisture away from your body. If you do get wet, get to a protected spot that’s out of the wind, rain and snow as quickly as possible. If possible, get indoors. Remove wet clothes and wrap yourself in dry blankets or towels and have something hot to drink.
• Recognize the signs of hypothermia, and get help if you experience any of them. Get out of the cold, get dry and get warm. The signs of hypothermia include:
– Uncontrollable shivering
– Pale, dusky, bluish skin
– Unsteady gait and clumsiness
– Numbness in hands and fingers
– Sleepiness, confusion, disorientation and loss of consciousness
– Slow heart rate.
• Use plenty of lotion and lip balm. Cold air has little moisture, and it dries and chaps your skin very quickly.
• Protect your eyes from wind and cold by wearing goggles or glasses, and from glare by wearing sunglasses.
• Wear a hat. You lose a lot of body heat through your head.
• Protect your fingers, ears and toes. Those are the farthest from your heart, and the first to get frostbite. Wear gloves and socks—not cotton ones–and pull your hat down over your ears.
• Eat extra calories during your activity. Winter sports use up more energy because you’re also maintaining your body temperature, so eat an energy bar or something every hour or so.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes during winter activities. Alcohol impairs your judgment and speeds up heat loss, and caffeine and cigarettes slow circulation to your fingers, toes and the tips of your ears.
These tips will help you avoid injury and hypothermia during cold weather activities so that you can have fun and keep fit in the winter.