Yesterday I was trekking around in the 2 degree weather and I saw a girl running in a tank top and shorts. What? Yeah, that flabbergasted me too! She wasn't paying attention to signs and symptoms of specific cold-weather dangers like:
- Frost bite
- Increased heart attack risk
Your lungs were not designed to breathe in large amounts of very cold air, which may also have very little moisture. Was she not concerned about the danger of slipping and falling on an icy patch? You can actually brake your wrist bones, which take about six months to heal.
So it would seem highly prudent to go indoors under extreme temperature conditions and do some high intensity training on a recumbent bike or elliptical, or do some strength training exercises until the temperatures warm up.
Once the thermometer dips down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 degrees Celsius) or so, you'll want to use extreme caution and make sure to protect your skin from exposure, as such subfreezing temperatures dramatically increase your chances of developing frost bite. If you suspect you may be developing frostbite, you'll want to get out of the cold immediately, and slowly warm the affected area. You should NOT rub the affected area however, as this may cause skin damage.
If the numbness persists, you need to seek emergency care.
If, for some reason, you decide that you want to exercise outdoors then it would be wise to exercise some caution. Do not just wear a tank top and pretend it's 60 degrees. Dressing appropriately and paying attention to the following safeguards can help keep you safe and warm when exercising outdoors this winter:
- Dress in three or more layers:
- Use a lightweight synthetic material to wick moisture away from your skin. Avoid heavy cotton materials as these absorb sweat, trapping wetness close to your body, which can increase your risk of hypothermia
- Add another layer or two of wool or fleece for insulating warmth
- Top it off with a lightweight, water-repellent and wind-resistant material
Always wear a hat, as you lose about 50 percent of your body heat from your uncovered head.
Wear gloves to protect your fingers from frostbite. Layering thin gloves with heavier mittens is a good idea so you can remove a layer if needed without exposing your bare skin to the frigid air
Cover your face with mask or scarf when the temperature is below freezing to avoid frostbite. This can also help warm the air a bit before entering your lungs
Wear sturdy footwear with good traction to prevent slips and falls on snow or ice
Check the temperature and the forecast. Health risks increase when the combined temperature and wind chill falls below -20°F
Wear light and/or reflective clothing as it gets darker sooner during the winter months. You want to make sure drivers can see you
Drink plenty of fluids. Staying properly hydrated is just as important during cold weather as during hot weather. Drink before, during and after your workout, even if you don't feel very thirsty, as dehydration may be more difficult to notice during cold weather exertion
Tell someone what route you're taking, and when to expect your return, just in case something goes wrong. If you slip and fall in the winter, hypothermia can get the better of you if no one knows to go looking for you