As the temperature drops and the warm days of summer become a distant memory, winter sport enthusiasts are gearing up for another season of outdoor exercise. If you are one to relish cold weather fitness activities, there are a few myths on which you need to put the "deep freeze" before you head outdoors.
Myth #1: Dehydration is not a concern when exercising in cold weather.
- Dehydration is as much of a concern during cold weather exercise as it is with warm weather exercise.
- Large amounts of water are lost through respiration during exercise in a cold environment. Your body needs to warm and humidify the cold, dry air that you inhale. Water is lost as you exhale the warmed and humidified air.
- If you wear heavy, impermeable clothing, large amounts of water can be lost through excessive sweating.
- Your thirst response is blunted in cold weather, making it less likely for you to feel the need to drink during and after the exercise - even when your body has lost significant amounts of water from the activity.
- There may be a tendency to purposely abstain from drinking fluids before heading outdoors in an attempt to avoid having to use the bathroom, and hence, needing to shed the many layers of clothing in order to do so. Therefore, your body is not adequately hydrated before you start the activity.
Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your exercise session. Drinking hot cocoa or spiced apple cider after you exercise is a good way to get both the fluid and carbohydrates that your body needs to replenish its stores.
Myth #2: I am not at risk for developing hyperthermia during cold weather exercise.
- A common mistake of winter sport enthusiasts is to dress too warmly and to wear heavy, impermeable clothing. Improper attire can trap the heat produced by your exercising body, putting you at risk for developing a heat illness.
Dress in layers so that you can add or remove articles of clothing as needed to maintain your core body temperature. The base layer (closest to your body) should be made of a material that wicks away moisture from your body, such as polypropylene. The mid-layer material should provide insulation, as well as wick away moisture. Fleece is a good option for this. The outer layer should be breathable, but waterproof to protect against the elements. An outer layer that has venting features, such as armpit zippers, is a good choice.
Myth #3: I do not need sunscreen during cold weather outdoor activities.
- Even during the cooler months of the year, you are at risk for developing a sunburn when exercising outdoors. This is especially true when the activities are performed in the snow, which reflects the sun back at you.
Wear a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher. The sunscreen should block both UVA and UVB rays. Protect your lips by using a lip balm that contains sunscreen.
Keep your cold weather exercise routine safe this season. Stay hydrated, dress in layers, and wear sunscreen.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
"Exercise and cold weather: Stay motivated, fit and safe" by Mayo Clinic
ACSM Fit Society Page, Winter 2005, p. 5-6, "Winter and Nutrition: Fueling for Cold Weather Exercise," Clark, N.
Labels: cold weather exercise, cold weather exercise myths, dehydration, hyperthermia