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Tips to Make Your Outdoor Winter Workout Something You’ll Love

Woman in winter gear tying a shoe on a city bridge

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Temperatures are dropping, and winter is here. However, just because the mercury is dropping on the thermometer doesn’t mean that your winter workout has to drop off along with it. In fact, winter can be a great time to really spice up your workout regimen — if we’re being honest here, the same old routine can get pretty, well, routine.

Though your winter exercises are going to require some different gear and taking a few precautionary measures, we guarantee you’ll find yourself loving the freshness of the cold outdoors and keeping your body moving during a time in which others find themselves glued to the couch.

Why You Should Exercise Outside in the Winter

Keep vitamin D levels up

Winter is the time that many people find their vitamin D levels dropping. If you’re not spending your cooler months in a place that boasts fabulous weather such as Southern California, chances are very high that you are going to be missing out on that vital vitamin D. Taking your exercise outdoors in the wintertime is a great way to give your body that vitamin D that it so desperately needs. Not only does vitamin D help fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it also can help those suffering from osteoporosis and even some forms of cancer. But don’t forget your sunscreen! Just because it isn’t bikini weather doesn’t mean your skin is safe from the rays of the sun.

Improve mood

There is no denying the existence of the winter blues. During the cooler months, the days get shorter and colder, meaning that the sun isn’t shining as much. And, as mentioned above, one of the biggest problems that this lack of sunshine and change in temperatures leads to is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With this, your body produces more melatonin than usual, leaving you feeling tired and unwilling to do much more than hang out on your couch. However, forcing yourself to spend even 30 minutes walking outside can make a huge difference in your mood.

Spark creativity

Mental blocks — we all feel them. And few things can be more frustrating than trying to break through a block that’s left your mind at a standstill. Next time you find yourself staring off into space, lace up your tennis shoes and get outside. Not only is getting physical outdoors a great way to improve your brain function and your mental focus, but it can also spark creativity. Break up those long days in front of your computer by scheduling in a quick walk or workout outdoors.

Switch it up

Though exercising outside does require a bit more work than a trip to the gym, you’ll end up enjoying your workout far more. The lack of people and the wide-open spaces really help you to get the most out of your exercise. Working out in a gym can often leave you feeling rushed, overheated, and crowded. This is especially true in the wintertime when the temperature drops cause people who typically exercise outside to head indoors. Step out from the pack and take that jog outside. You’ll love the peace and quiet, and the full refresh you’ll feel.

How to Exercise Outside in the Winter

Taking your workouts outdoors in the winter is very different from the summer. You’ll want to pay particular attention to a number of things, covered below.

Don’t forget your fingers and toes

When most people think of dressing for the cold, the priorities are typically a warm coat and a hat. However, when exercising outside during the winter, a warm coat and a hat will not be enough. Not properly dressing for your outdoor workout can cause some serious problems such as frostbite, heart problems, and more. Why is that? Because when your body is exposed to cold weather (as you’ll experience in exercising outdoors), your blood flow heads straight to your internal organs, leaving your fingers and toes freezing. In order to avoid problems that go along with freezing extremities, be sure to bring along gloves and warm wool socks for your outdoor adventures.

Layer it up

The fact that your body heats up as you exercise is certainly no secret. What you may not know is that your torso generates more heat (and thus, sweat) than any other part of your body. This means that when you’re exercising outside, you want to be sure you are dressing in a number of layers. When you start your workout, you’ll be cold. However, as your workout increases, you’ll start to heat up and the shedding begins. Dressing too warmly is a big problem, says Mayo Clinic. “Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat — enough to make you feel like it’s much warmer than it really is. The evaporation of sweat, however, pulls heat from your body and you feel chilled.” In order to avoid this, layer like a pro:

  • Bottom layer: a synthetic material
  • Middle layer: fleece or wool to insulate
  • Top (outer) layer: Waterproof and breathable

If you tend to run cold, or get cold easily, you may want to add another layer into the mix.

Leave that cotton at home

Speaking of layers, one layer you definitely want to avoid when working outside is cotton. Though cotton is “the fabric of our lives,” it doesn’t do much good when sweating in the cold outdoors.

Why? Cotton doesn’t wick away moisture like other fabrics do, so when cotton gets wet, it becomes soggy, leaving you cold. If you know you’re going to be sweating, opt for a moisture-wicking fabric to keep your body temperature regulated.

Don’t overdo it

Once you get in “the zone” of exercising outdoors, you’ll be feeling that high. However, you don’t want to lose sight of signs that it is time for you to head back inside. Here are a few things that you should watch out for:

  • Losing feeling in fingers and/or toes
  • Dizzy or disoriented feeling
  • Overexertion

If you’re feeling any of the above things, do not push your limits. Head inside. Also, if you’re prone to heart problems, be sure you take extra precaution when exercising outside in the winter. Cold weather can make breathing more difficult, and can spark some serious heart problems if you’re not careful. If you play it safe and smart, exercising outdoors boasts some truly incredible benefits that you are going to love during the oftentimes depressing winter. What are your favorite outdoor exercises in the winter? Be sure to share with us!

Concerned about your vein health?

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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