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outdoor winter workouts

Autumn is in full swing and winter is on the way, leading many dedicated fitness fiends to contemplate the benefits and downsides of exercising outdoors in low temperatures.

There are plenty of reasons working out in the cold can be a great experience, but a few considerations should be kept in mind.

The most important thing to remember is to dress appropriately. This, of course, means not wearing too little clothing -- you might think you're demonstrating your toughness by running in 10-degree temps with nothing but a t-shirt; this is not only dangerous for your body but also detrimental to your workout. Cold air constricts the blood vessels and stiffens your muscles.

Then again, you also don't want to wear too much. Obviously your body is going to start heating up as you exercise, and if you start soaking your clothes in sweat, that's only going to cause more problems ultimately.

It is advisable to wear layers that can easily be removed if needed while you're on the go. In terms of what types of materials to wear, Mayo Clinic recommends a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which will help you stay dry while you sweat, and on top of that, fleece or wool for insulation. Avoid cotton.

Speaking of sweating, remember that you are going to do so despite the cool air. Staying hydrated might not be at the top of your mind in the same way it would if you were getting active on a hot summer day, but it's still critical. 

It's generally safe to exercise outside when the temperature is above zero, but that can change based on the wind chill. A cold, windy day puts you at risk for frostbite or hypothermia even when you're heating your body by exercising vigorously. On those days where freezing winds are whipping, you should opt to work out indoors.

Another thing to be cognizant of is the conditions of roads and paths. When there's slippery ice on the ground, running or biking can be quite treacherous. Last year I went for a jog on a relatively warm winter day, but slipped on a patch of ice and hurt my ankle. That injury still bothers me from time to time. 

Having said all that, with the proper precautions exercising in cold weather can be very good for you, and many people report better results during the winter months. Stay warm, stay active and stay safe!



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