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Baby, It’s Cold Outside. But You Can Still Exercise

Fitness Expert Gives Tips for Exercising Outside in the Cold

MAYWOOD, Ill. – The weather outside might be frightful, but sitting by that fire might make your fitness routine go cold. Though your body may be layered under sweatshirts and coats, staying active and healthy is important no matter what the temperature is outside.

“It’s hard to stay motivated in the winter,” said Kara Smith, personal trainer and group fitness coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness. "When temperatures plummet, the last thing we want to do is leave the comfort and warmth of our homes. But winter is not a good excuse to give up our fitness routines."

In fact, there are a lot of great outdoor fitness activities you can only enjoy during the winter months, such as hockey or ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing.

“Your outdoor running and walking routines don’t have to go away when it’s cold, just modify it a little,” said Valerie Walkowiak, medical fitness-integration coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness. "Winter can be a great time for outdoor activity if you’re prepared."

She offers these tips for exercising outside in the cold.

  1. Wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Take special care with extremities when exposing them to the cold. Keep them covered to prevent frostbite. The nose, ears, fingers and toes are especially vulnerable.
  2. Proper shoes and socks also are important. Moisture is extremely dangerous when exercising in the cold so make sure your shoes are waterproof to keep your feet dry. Also, consider wearing thermal or two pairs of socks to keep your toes warm.
  3. Wear layers. Exercise will generate heat, which may make you feel too warm. Layers allow you the option of taking off clothes piece by piece to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
  4. Layer correctly. The bottom-most layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene to keep sweat off your skin. Avoid cotton since it stays wet and can cause your skin to get cold. The next layer should be fleece or wool for insulation. The top layer should be a waterproof, breathable material. Avoid heavy jackets that may cause you to overheat if exercising hard.
  5. Stay hydrated. In the summer months we think about hydrating, but it’s important in winter, too. Winter is a very dry time of year, so your body needs more water even when not sweating. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and weakness so drink lots of water.

If you need a little more incentive to get moving this winter, try these tips from Smith.

  1. Keep a pair of summer shorts in the drawer and try them on every couple weeks to make sure they still fit.
  2. Find an exercise partner. Schedule a time with a friend to exercise and get together for healthy potlucks and weigh-in accountability.
  3. Find out what fruits and veggies are in season and discover new recipes you can share at the healthy potluck.
  4. Purchase a gym membership. Most fitness centers have promotions going on in January
  5. Try something new. Purchase a new fitness video you can do at home or start a new fitness activity to keep you going until spring.

“Winter doesn’t last forever so stop hibernating and get out and enjoy what each season has to offer,” said Smith.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Evie Polsley
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