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Pre-Winter Workout: Getting Your Body Ready for the Cold Weather

Posted 10/28/2016 by UHBlog

Don't let cold weather spell the end of your fitness routine. Ask us what adjustments to make for your outdoor winter workouts.

Pre-Winter Workout: Getting Your Body Ready for the Cold Weather

Darkness is coming earlier and temperatures are beginning to drop. That’s no reason to stop working out. Some folks will undoubtedly bring their exercise program indoors when winter weather sets in, but others may choose to brave the frigid air and stay outside.

If you exercise outside in the winter, a good pre-workout warm-up is essential, says orthopaedic clinical specialist and senior physical therapist Elayna Theiss PT. That’s because your muscles are less flexible in cold weather than in the heat of the summer.

“Regardless of the weather or the time of year, you should complete a general dynamic warm-up to improve your blood flow and heart rate before participating in exercise or an athletic activity,” Theiss says. “It may help to reduce your risk of injury.”

By taking measures now to prepare – while the air is still mild – can make the transition easier when the thermometer loses its color.

“Cold weather can make it more challenging to maintain your core temperature,” she says. “You can work on that now by building up your muscle mass. People with more muscle mass can maintain their core temperature better than somebody with less. And the better your cardiovascular fitness, the better your ability to exercise longer and at a high metabolic rate. So strength training and conditioning now can help to prepare you for cold weather workouts.”

With the frozen ground covered with ice and snow, winter workouts present elevated risks of slips and falls. That, Theiss says, increases your risk of sprains and broken bones.

“It’s a good idea to run your route and get acclimated to it before it gets slippery or uneven,” she says.

Cold weather also brings the risks of frostbite and hypothermia. Theiss recommends dressing in layers – the bottom layer should be able to wick sweat away from your skin.

“In general, if your body is wet it will transfer heat faster, so staying dry will help you to maintain your body temperature a little longer,” she says.

According to Theiss, a physical therapist can help you to design a personal exercise program for optimum safety and results, regardless of the climate.

“Everybody is different,” she says. “A physical therapist can do things like a video running analysis that can pick up on risk factors that may predispose somebody to injury. It might give them something to work on now and keep them healthy through the winter.”

Although cold weather exercise has some risks, especially when compared to working out inside, it also has benefits, Theiss says.

“Getting outside in the sunlight exposes you to vitamin D, which may improve your overall mood compared to being stuck inside all winter,” she says.

Elayna Theiss, PT is an orthopedic clinical specialist and senior physical therapist in the University Hospitals Mayfield Village Health Center Rehabilitation Services. You can request an appointment with an physical therapist or sports services specialist online.

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