When the sun is shining, the sky is bright and blue, and the breeze is just right, it takes little to no convincing to get outside and move your body. But when we're stuck in the gloomy, gray-filled skies of winter, it can be difficult to find the motivation to leave your cozy spot on the couch.
The winter months can be hard and leave us feeling hopeless, less productive, drained of energy, and even depressed. About 5 percent of adults in the United States experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year.
But the good news is, getting some fresh air can help. Outdoor exercise is good for your body and mind, no matter what time of year it is. And during the winter, exercise can help ward off the blues and boost your energy levels. Research shows that spending at least 120 minutes a week outside and in nature can promote better health and overall well-being.
Plus, getting outside during cold and flu season will help you avoid germs and sickness, and it can even boost your immunity. Many plants put substances, including organic compounds called phytoncides, into the air that seem to improve immune function.
Don't let the winter blues get you down; here are five cold-weather exercise tips you can use to stay active, warm, and healthy this season.
1. Wear the Right Gear
It goes without saying, but what you wear outside during the winter is important. Not only do you want to stay warm when you're exercising, but you want to stay dry as well. Since water is an efficient heat conductor, getting wet outside when it's cold will leave you chilled.
You should avoid active wear made of cotton; it soaks up sweat and rain and holds in that moisture. Opt for synthetic fibers instead, like polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. These fibers are designed to dry quickly and perform well outdoors.
2. Layer Up
If you're into more active exercises like running, hiking, or skiing, consider wearing layers that can be taken off and added back on later. Layers will allow you to be more comfortable and help you safely balance your rising body temperatures with the cold air temperatures.
Here's how you can layer up for your winter workouts.
First, put on a thin base layer made from synthetic fibers. This layer will help pull the sweat away from your skin. If it's very cold, you should consider adding a middle layer — like a fleece — to keep you warm. Finally, you'll want an outer shell to protect you from the elements. Depending on the weather, your outer layer can be a lightweight windbreaker or vest, or a heavy, waterproof coat.
3. Protect Your Skin
It's easy to forget about the sun when there's snow on the ground. But you shouldn't — you can still get a sunburn during the winter months. It's just as important to apply sunscreen in the winter as it is in the summer.
Even if it’s cloudy, UV rays can reach your skin and damage it. Another thing to keep in mind — snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So when there’s snow on the ground, you’re hit by many of the same UV rays twice.
Before heading outside for your workout, apply some sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your face and any other skin that will be exposed. And don't forget to apply SPF lip balm to keep your lips protected and moisturized.
4. Stay Hydrated
You might not feel as thirsty during your winter workouts as you would in the summer. But that doesn't mean you're not losing fluids.
Dehydration carries a variety of risks, including headaches and low energy levels. You’re still losing fluids through sweat and breathing in lower temperatures, and you need to replace them by drinking water. If you're doing intense physical exercises where you'll need additional electrolytes, opt for sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.
Make sure you drink water before, during, and after your workouts so you can keep yourself hydrated.
5. Check Your Surroundings
Everyone knows how slippery the conditions can be when it rains or snows. And it can be especially dangerous when ice is involved. If you're working out when any of these elements are present, stick to plowed and salted areas. Some trails and back roads may not be maintained, causing obstacles that could lead to injury.
If you still want to get your workout in when it's snowy or icy, attach some ice or snow spikes to your shoes or boots. These will give you more traction and help reduce the risk of falling.
We hope these outdoor fitness tips will help you stay healthy and active throughout the winter season. At OnSite Wellness, health and wellness is our specialty.
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