4 Tips for Safe Outdoor Winter Workouts

January 22, 2018


If you're heart-healthy, there's no reason you can't enjoy working out in the great outdoors year-round."

Admit it — between Christmas and St. Patrick's Day, you spend as much time indoors as possible. And there's nothing wrong with that, per se! Most of the Y's winter programs are indoors, after all.

But enjoying your favorite outdoor activity has a ton of health benefits, not just physically, but psychologically as well. Chicago can certainly get uncomfortably cold during the winter, but with a few precautions, you can usually find a way to enjoy the outdoors every month of the year. And guess what? People exposed to cold temperatures burn more fat!

According to Dr. Michael Joyner and Ariane Hundt, here are 4 tips for safe, fun winter workouts in the elements. Please note: individuals with heart health issues should consult a doctor before exercising in cold temperatures.

  1. Learn How to Layer. Your body temperature is going to change drastically during your workout, so you don't want to be stuck in a thick parka. Try layering with a base shirt, an insulating fleece, and a wind-breaking outer layer, then shedding one or more layers as needed. If running or biking, you can tie the extra layer(s) around your waist. Experiment until you figure out what's comfortable.
  2. Stretch Even More Than Usual. You already know stretching can prevent injuries by warming up your joints and muscles, but did you know cold temperatures cause your joints to become even stiffer than usual? To counteract that effect, stretch longer than you usually do before indoor/warm-weather workouts. “You can also do a mini-version of the workout you have planned outside," says Hundt.
  3. Drink Even More Water Than Usual. Did you know cold air is drier than warm air? That means you'll get dehydrated faster. If you're planning on exercising more than 1 hour, consider bringing an electrolyte or carbohydrate drink.
  4. Check the Weather. Yes, frostbite is a real threat, but the air temperature isn't the only thing you need to worry about. Wind chill is a huge factor as well. Here's a chart from the National Weather Service that tells you how quickly frostbite can occur at a given temperature and wind chill. If your skin starts feeling numb or tingly, get inside and warm up immediately. To limit skin exposure, try using workout-friendly gloves, hats, and neck gaiters.

Need help brainstorming more ways to stay active? Schedule a free Y Wellness Consultation today.

For more health and fitness tips, follow the Y on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.