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Physical Activity In Winter

When the mercury goes down, many people put off their trainers and quit their outdoor exercise program. But this is a shame: low temperatures are no obstacle to exercise outside the four walls. Indeed, in some cases, outside temperatures around 10 degrees or more downward facilitate movement.

Some people think it is better to train in low and high temperatures. When you move, heat is produced; therefore, there is no reason to give up physical activity in winter.

The Benefits Of Physical Activity In The Winter

The World Health Organization instructs adults in good health to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-level physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous level. Many consider this goal low, but the advice is based on many scientific studies that show the countless benefits of regular motor activity, which, in addition to helping to keep weight under control, also helps prevent the development of increasingly widespread diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular, diabetes, obesity and some cancers. In winter, however, exercise has at least two more reasons.

  1. First, in winter, with the shortening of the days and the decrease in sunlight, the symptoms of mood disorders increase, as for some forms of depression, and doing physical activity improves the mood.
  2. A second factor pushes maintaining good physical activity levels in cold weather, as physical exercise strengthens the immune system and helps fight seasonal ailments such as colds and flu.

The Necessary Caution

People in good health have no particular problems training outdoors with even shallow temperatures, as long as they follow some guidelines on clothing and preparation. Even children can run, play and move outdoors in the cold, but it must be remembered that, due to their physical condition, they tend to lose body heat more quickly than adults and to cool down more easily.

It is, therefore, necessary to check that they do not stay outdoors for too long. People with some disease, such as a cardiovascular problem, should instead consult their doctor first to assess the intensity of physical activity to be practiced in cold weather. The sport generally strains the body, as does the cold. When mixing, you shouldn’t overdo it if you want to benefit from the activity.

Frost, Rain, Wind, Darkness

You should consult the weather forecast first for outdoor activities, from simple walking to cycling. Indeed, the cold does not prevent you from exercising outdoors, but there are nevertheless some weather conditions to which you must pay attention to avoid injuries: It is not recommended to do physical activity when the ground is frozen. The risk of slipping should not be underestimated. You risk contracting fractures that would force you to remain inactive even for weeks. Rain and wind also make outdoor activities problematic for at least three reasons.

  1. When wet, many surfaces become slippery, presenting ice-like problems.
  2. Wet clothing makes it difficult to maintain an adequate body temperature.
  3. The presence of strong winds associated with low temperatures can become a problem. The current penetrates the fabrics and removes heat from the body, making you feel much colder than on days with the same low temperatures but without wind.

Finally, it must be remembered that in winter it gets dark early and darkness can be a danger on the roads, in the countryside and the city. The point to remember is to judge the weather conditions outside: if it’s too cold, raining, snowing, or if it’s already dark, it’s best to give up and train indoors.

Appropriate Clothing

One of the most relevant aspects of outdoor physical activity is how to dress. If you cover yourself a lot, you risk sweating too much, staying with damp clothes, and feeling cold. If you dress too lightly, you think hard right away. The belief that sweating makes you lose weight must be dispelled.

Physical activity and energy balance are useless, even harmful, to cover yourself with non-breathable clothing or plastic sheets. The weight lost during training is just water that drinks and food will replenish, and sweating too many strains the heart. 

The solution is to dress in layers or “onions.” After a few minutes of light activity, the body produces heat, and some clothing is superfluous. At this point, the outermost layers will be removed. When you have finished the training, you get dressed. The amount (weight) of clothing also depends on the build. In general, slimmer people tend to feel cold faster than overweight people. The fabric of the dress contributes to maintaining the temperature. The three layers should be:

  1. The first layer, the one in contact with the skin, must be breathable to remove moisture from the body quickly. In this case, materials such as microfiber are an excellent choice. On the other hand, cotton should be avoided because this fabric remains wet for a long time and therefore continues to remove heat from the body.
  2. A fleece or wool can represent the second layer; the heaviness depends on the external temperature and the type of activity carried out. The more intense the training, the less heavy the second layer will be.
  3. The third layer, the outer layer, is represented by a waterproof and breathable windbreaker. Although the fabric is breathable, the jacket does not facilitate air circulation, so it is better to wear jackets with some air vents and adjust the opening and closing.

Garments that are too tight, which could hinder blood circulation, are unsuitable and should be discarded.

Hands, Feet, And Head

Hands and feet tend to get cold immediately. We recommend using thermal socks for the feet, possibly choosing shoes more significant than the usual ones. For the hands, it is advisable to use a pair of gloves. Better to avoid wool ones that let too much air through. In periods of extreme cold, a hat can be beneficial to protect the forehead and ears, one of the body’s vulnerable points, and because much of the body’s heat is lost through the head.

Mistakes To Avoid

Clothing is essential and, advice aside, it is a personal experience that must guide the choice of clothes, the important thing is not to be cold and not to sweat too much.

  1. The most common mistake among people who exercise outdoors is dressing too heavily. In this case, you risk sweating, staying in damp clothes, and feeling cold.
  2. Even the warm-up and stretching phases must be taken care of: in particular, in cold weather, the introduction must be gradual and prolonged because, in the cold, it is easier to have muscle problems. Stretching or cool-down exercises at the end of the activity should be done indoors or in a warm environment, not outdoors and in the cold.
  3. If you play an intense sport that includes moments of high intensity mixed with periods of recovery, you must be careful not to sweat too much because you may feel cold in healing moments.

Hydrate, Like In The Summer

Although winter is not often linked to ​​a cold drink, it is necessary to hydrate well to not lose minerals even in cold weather. Indeed, the lower urge to drink compared to summer is another good reason to pay attention to this aspect. It would help if you hydrated before, during, and after exercise.

Water quenches thirst without filling up with unnecessary sugars and calories and is preferable to energy drinks. Winter, physical activity, or sport are badly reconciled with the consumption of alcohol, which is to be avoided altogether. 

Alcohol, despite what is often believed, negatively affects the metabolism, heats up for a short time, and then feels even colder than before. Above all, when you play a sport that requires quick reflexes, such as snow sports, alcohol becomes dangerous, as it compromises your clarity.

If you want to consume them, are reserved when you are safe in the refuge at the end of the day. Instead, always and in any case, remember the rules of proper nutrition in sports, to which this site dedicates an entire manual.

Beware Of The Sun

In winter, the sun can be intense on clear days, and the UV index is high and dangerous for eye health. It is always a good idea to carry a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes. It is also helpful to protect the skin on the face with sunscreen, especially if you are in the mountains. In conclusion, the harsh climate is not an obstacle to exercising outdoors. Cold winter days can allow for a lot of outdoor fun if you are dressed correctly and prepared.

ALSO READ: WHY DO YOU NEED SUNSCREEN EVEN IN WINTER?

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