The cold air forces you to work to overcome some of the natural body changes in combatting the cold, so your body makes up for it by burning more fat. But you do need to take a few extra precautions to avoid cold weather discomfort -- or worse, hypothermia. Aside from the obvious precautions of wearing a hat, scarf and gloves, follow these cold-weather fitness guidelines before heading out.
Check the air temperature and wind chill factor before you leave your home. If you're properly dressed, it's safe to exercise if the temperature is as low as 20 degrees, even with a 30 mph wind, according to the National Safety Council. Danger to exposed skin occurs when the wind chill factor falls below minus 20 degrees.
Wear fewer, thinner layers of clothing you can peel off, rather than one single, heavy layer; cool down gradually after your workout by taking off a layer at a time.
Wear breathable fabrics
Choose breathable fabrics to avoid sweat build-up that makes you feel colder. A good choice for a breathable, wind-repellent fabric includes Gore-Tex.
Until you've mastered cold-weather fitness, start your workout at half your usual warm-weather distance; if you normally run four miles, start with two.
Warm up indoors for five minutes before heading out. Running in place or jumping rope makes it less likely you'll strain a muscle.
Wear sunscreen, especially if you exercise near snow, which reflects sunlight. Even though the sun isn't beating down on you with heat, it can still cause sunburn.
Tune in to your body temperature
Don't ignore the warning signs that you may be cold. Symptoms of frostbite include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If you suspect frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area. Do not rub, as it can damage skin. If numbness remains, see a doctor.
Even if you thrive on early-morning workouts, on extremely cold days consider exercising later in the day, when temps are highest.
Avoid open spaces and paths near water to reduce exposure to biting winds.
If you're prone to breathing difficulties or exercise-induced asthma, ask your doctor about using an inhaler or the use of oral medications such as Advair.
Stay dry – even after
Get out of damp clothes as soon as possible, even if you cannot shower immediately, and change into dry clothes.
Winter workouts shred calories
As with any time of the year, mix up your workouts for variety. Here are a few popular cold-weather activities with estimated calorie-burning when performed for 60 minutes (estimates from the Mayo Clinic):
Calories burned: 500
Cross country skiing
Calories burned: 500
Calories burned: 300
Calories burned: 200 to 300
More winter fitness tips
Snowshoeing for winter exercise
Indoor fitness: Winter workouts from the experts
Winter fitness: Shovel your way into shape
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