Falling Temperatures Don't Mean You Cannot Exercise Outdoors, Says Expert

Feb 09, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Don’t let the temperature temper your exercise resolution. Even when the temperature drops you can still keep that New Year’s exercise resolution, and you can still do it safely outdoors. Your body can adapt to the falling temperatures, according to Gary Sforzo, an expert on the physiology of exercise.

“If you are concerned about hypothermia, you don’t need to be unless the temperatures are extreme,” says Sforzo, a professor of and sport sciences at Ithaca College. “The body produces a lot of heat during exercise and when it produces heat, it pretty much diminishes any chance of hypothermia. The key is continuous exercise. If you go outdoors for a walk or a run, just move continuously. Don’t stop for five or ten minutes to talk to your neighbor. Hikers sometimes get into trouble if they stop for lunch. As long as you are moving, the muscles produce metabolic heat and that metabolic heat will keep you pretty warm, sometimes to the point where you need to remove clothing.”

What you wear in the cold plays an important role also. Sforzo suggests a synthetic fiber next to your skin that wicks away perspiration — cotton is not a good choice for that. Also be sure to have a windproof jacket.

“The danger zone is typically in the -20 to -30 windchill zone. When the ambient temperature is in the single digits or below and you have wind, you can have some problems. When the ambient temperature gets to 20 below with even the slightest wind, then obviously hypothermia is a problem if you stand around. But in those conditions you are also looking at the potential of frostbite.”

Frostbite is mainly a problem with the extremities. Vasoconstriction can decrease the amount of blood flowing to them so you have to keep those extremities covered with a hat, gloves and good footwear. The nose is a tough one and Sforzo recommends wearing a scarf as high as you can get it on your face.

If you are in doubt about the outdoor conditions, Sforzo suggests checking out a table that shows the danger zone on a wind chill chart before heading out to exercise (bit.ly/XtWhn). And he reminds us the chart is for exposed flesh while standing still. “We fare better when covering skin and exercising.”

Also keep in mind that your performance may go down in .” Cold is not conducive to your personal best performance. Muscles perform better when they are warm. Even Olympians will not get their best performance on the coldest day.”

The body adapts to the cold temperature so, “don’t wait until it is 5 degrees outside to have your first session. When the body adapts it will have a couple of different changes. It will shiver differently and it will more readily release hormones like epinephrine and thyroxine, which allow the body to produce heat more effectively in cold weather. Get used to the cold weather and it will be more comfortable,” said Sforzo.

So excuses begone. Avoid cabin fever, dress right, get out and stick to your resolutions. As a last bit of advice, Sforzo cautions “watch out for the ice!”

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hypothermia: Staying Safe in Cold Weather

Jan 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Frigid weather can pose special risks to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid hypothermia -- when ...

Staying warm in winter is more challenging for the elderly

Dec 18, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- In 1980, when America was still dealing with the oil crisis from the previous decade, Ann Kolanowski, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor of Nursing at Penn State and director of the John A. Harford Foundation ...

Death rates will rise because of global warming

Jul 02, 2007

Global warming will cause more deaths in summer because of higher temperatures but these will not be offset by fewer deaths in milder winters finds an analysis published online ahead of print in Occupational and Environment Me ...

Don't Spoil a Good Picnic

May 01, 2008

Ants and bad weather aren’t the only things that can ruin a picnic. When food gets too hot or too cold, the chances of contamination and food-borne illness increase. Taking a few preventative measures when dining outdoors ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
not rated yet Feb 09, 2010
Thanks for the info, Dr. Brain.

More news stories

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...