How to Exercise Safely Outdoors in Fall and Winter

Goldwaser says, make sure you have the right shoes for the weather. When it’s raining, snowing, or freezing, you’ll want shoes with floating grooves on the bottom to ensure good traction. (That said, if it gets pretty cold or snowy, you might want to stay home, Dr. Fleeter said.)

When exercising at low temperatures, continue to hydrate, even if you don’t feel thirsty, says Dr. When it’s cold, the body releases a hormone called vasopressin that constricts blood vessels and suppresses thirst, so you may not feel the need to drink water, he explains. Also, when you exercise in the cold, your body burns extra calories to stay warm, so you may want to eat a little more than usual to stay energized, he adds.

Remember to stretch before exercising outdoors in winter, says Dr. Goldwaser, because muscles and ligaments tear easily in the cold. He suggested dynamic stretching, helps to stretch different muscle groups gently and briefly. Dynamic stretches can be safer than static stretches, which you hold for longer periods of time, he says, because static stretches can put stress on cold muscles.

Whenever you exercise outdoors alone, it’s a good idea to tell someone where you’re going or bring your phone in case you get injured, Dr. Terrell advises. If you’re concerned about animal encounters or other mishaps, consider bringing pepper spray or bear repellent if you live where it’s legal.

Dr. Goldwaser says: Never exercise outdoors during a thunderstorm; The chance that you might be struck by lightning is small but significant enough to watch out for. Dr. Terrell suggests checking the weather forecast before going on an outdoor excursion to be sure that bad weather won’t happen. If you need to move your workouts indoors from time to time, “have a plan B,” says Dr. Terrell, so you can still exercise. I do video barre in my basement, for example.

Fleeter says you should never exercise outside when the temperature or fan is below -10 degrees Fahrenheit because the risk of frostbite is very high. You may also want to stay indoors when it’s a little warmer, depending on what you’re going to do. If you’re biking, you’re going to encounter wind, which makes you feel colder, says Dr. Fleeter; he advises people not to ride a bike in temperatures below 15 degrees, and he advises against riding in temperatures below 5 degrees.

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