By: Sheila Borgen, PT
I recently watched a series of YouTube videos about one of the coldest villages on earth, Yakutia, Siberia. I had no idea that there were people in today’s world that lived in climates whose winters can reach temperatures as low as -76°F. Yet, the villagers still have school, work, go to the store, enjoy extracurricular activities, exercise, and even eat ice cream. In fact, the children attend school unless temperatures fall below -67°F. Not only do they attend school, but they walk in these frigid temperatures to get to school. The most exciting thing about these villagers is their desire to live life to its fullest despite the cold. They combat the cold by strategically layering their clothing to go outside, staying active, and being as healthy as possible. I have tremendous respect for these people!
On the flip-side is the unfortunate research I uncovered when exploring how many Americans manage colder temperatures. Recent studies determined that average Americans gain between .87 to 3.35 pounds during winter months. The weight gain is attributed to multiple factors, including depression, decreased activity due to cold weather, and attending holiday parties with a barrage of delicious goodies. The unfortunate thing is, for most of these Americans, the weight does NOT go away as winter passes. Instead, the pounds continue increasing each year in the colder months, hanging on tightly like a blood-sucking leech. Don’t despair. There is a solution, exercise. Yes, even in freezing temperatures including snow, you can be fit!
Apparently, the human body can tolerate a lot colder temperatures than one might think if prepared. So how do you prepare for chilly temperatures? Is it simply layering on extra clothing? Or wearing earmuffs? Here are the most important things you can do for outdoor wintertime exercise.
Be weather aware! Keep a watchful eye on the forecast when planning your adventure. I know. I get it! The weather forecasters seem to mess it up A LOT! But in the end, they have a better idea of what to expect than we do. Weather patterns are ever-evolving and preparing for a cold day outside will vary drastically if the cold day contains snow or icy rain!
Stretch before you exercise. This simple act is critical in increasing blood flow to muscles making them more pliable and decreasing the risk of injury.
Layer up. Layering clothing traps air that insulates your body and protects your core temperature.
Hydrate. Believe it or not, the risk of dehydration is just as evident in cold weather than warm weather. As temperatures drop, thirst also decreases, but the amount of fluid your body requires to function does not.
Keep in mind that although outdoor exercise is feasible, if it is not your “thing,” then that’s ok. No pressure! Instead, use the winter months to your benefit. Work out at a local gym, go mall walking, or attack your daily aches and pains head-on. Head to a local physical therapy clinic and let them guide you into a pain-free new year!
Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 24 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at WriteInventive.com.