When colder weather sets in, some people abandon their outdoor fitness routines for the comfort of indoor gyms and home exercise equipment. However, walking in the winter and even jogging, when practical, are not limited to the warmer months of the year. Outdoor conditions can be a bit treacherous, so safety and common sense should always prevail.
While winter walking is a good way to warm up and get in a workout, it requires different footwear than regular walking shoes. The correct footwear will provide support, warmth and traction for traversing various conditions.
Start by choosing footwear that is warm. Certain boots and booties will have a lining that improves heat retention. Wear warm socks and waterproof or water-resistant shoes.
They will protect against wet, chilled feet if you come across slushy puddles along the way. Although wet feet might be merely an inconvenience other times of the year, in very cold temperatures, a cold and wet body can be susceptible to hypothermia and even frostbite.
Look for shoes that have a mid-height ankle. This height offers support and stability to the ankles when walking on uneven surfaces, such as snow-covered paths.
Also, should your foot slip on slick pavement, a taller shoe will protect the ankle against sprains or fractures.
Additionally, choose a shoe or boot that has a thick but not too heavy sole for better traction on icy areas.
Layering is essential when exercising outdoors in cold weather. You want to ensure that you will be warm enough, but not too warm that you begin to sweat and run the risk of hypothermia later on. Dress so that you feel chilled when stepping outdoors, not toasty warm. As your body warms up with the exercise, it will reach a comfortable temperature.
A windbreaker is good for blocking chilly, winter winds.
Choose a jacket that will move with your body and not impede walking stride or jogging ability. Tights or yoga pants that wick moisture away will insulate your legs, and a fleece vest can help keep your body’s core warm when it is particularly cold outside.
Don’t overlook gloves and a hat when walking. These items will prevent heat from escaping through your extremities.
Winter conditions may lead to snowblindness or reduced visibility for drivers.
If you will be walking on roads, dress for visibility. Avoid colours that will blend in with snowy surroundings and opt for bright flashes of colour that make you more visible, particularly at dawn, dusk and night.
Whenever possible, do your outdoor exercising when the sun is up. You’ll benefit from the mood-boosting properties of the sun and will have added warmth and visibility. Furthermore, spending time in the outdoor sun enables your body to produce vitamin D, which helps maintain healthy bones. Spending time outdoors can stave off winter doldrums and cabin fever.
Exercise with a buddy, who can help you if you slip or fall on icy surfaces. Walking or running with a partner also is a great way to remain motivated.
If you feel very unstable walking on slippery roads and pathways, you may want to invest in winter cleats or crampons that can be attached to the underside of your shoes. These devices offer superior traction.
If you want to pack in a more powerful winter workout, you can think about walking through the snow rather than around it.
According to fitness experts at Weight Watchers International, walking in packed snow increases the calories burned by 60 per cent compared to walking on a paved road. Walking in soft snow triples the calories burned compared to walking at the same speed on a treadmill. In addition, the added resistance of the snow can firm and tone muscles.
Purchase snow shoes or cross-country skis and poles to facilitate walking in the snow.
For those who want to forego structured exercise, simply having fun in the snow, by trekking up a mountain when sledding or having a snowball fight with the kids, is a great way to exercise outdoors in the winter.
There is no need to pack away exercise clothing for the winter season. With the right equipment and know-how, winter lovers can still spend adequate time outdoors once the mercury drops.