Wellness Tips

8 tips for staying active this winter | Health & Wellness Services

You don’t have to be an avid skier or snowboarder to stay active over the winter. Check out these tips and ideas for ways to enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s cold out. 

1. Check weather conditions 

If you’re planning to head outside, be sure to check weather conditions before you leave and continue to check them throughout the day. When looking at the weather, it’s important to consider factors like temperature, precipitation and wind chill. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating conditions. 

Temperature and wind chill 
Wind can make it feel much colder than what’s reported. You can see how wind chill is affecting temperatures outside by checking the “feels like” temperature in your weather app or online. This measure will give you a better idea of how cold it actually feels. For instance, if the temperature says that it is 32°F, additional wind chill may make it feel more like 15°F.  

Important: It’s best to move physical activities indoors whenever temperatures reach 0°F or when wind chill makes it feel less than 0°F. Exposed skin can develop frostbite in 30 minutes at a wind chill of -19°F. 

Even when the weather looks clear, it’s important to remember that conditions can change rapidly, especially at higher elevations. For this reason, it’s best to pack a variety of layers in case you encounter rain, snow or wind. Wearing layers can help you stay warm when it’s cold while also allowing you to cool off if you start to get too warm from exertion. Consider wearing a base layer, mid-layer, warm jacket and windbreaker if necessary. 

Always protect your hands, feet and ears from the cold by wearing gloves, warm socks, waterproof footwear and a hat or other ear protection. These areas of your body are most susceptible to frostbite, especially when exposed to the elements. 

Snow and ice 
If the weather is calling for snow or if you expect areas to be icy, make sure your shoes have proper traction or add crampons to your footwear. To avoid injury, you should also plan on taking it slow. For instance, if you were planning a run, but conditions are snowy or icy, it may be best to opt for a longer walk instead. When exercising outside, always be vigilant for ice on sidewalks, trails and bike lanes. 

2. Use sun protection 

Many people associate sun protection with summer fun. However, it’s also important to protect your skin and eyes from UV sun damage in the winter. The sun’s rays can easily penetrate clouds and reflect off of snow and other surfaces. Protect yourself from a winter sunburn or goggle tan by wearing sunscreen (SPF 30+) as well as sunglasses or tinted goggles. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours. 

3. Stay hydrated and energized 

It’s often easier to remember to drink water when it’s hot out or when we’re working up a sweat. However, it’s also important to stay hydrated and fuel your body during winter activities. Cold weather can mask symptoms of dehydration like thirst, so it can be helpful to set a timer to drink water regularly while doing outdoor activities. You should also pack a variety of snacks to help keep your energy up, especially if you’re doing strenuous activities like hiking, skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. 

4. Warm up first 

Cold muscles are more prone to injury than ones that have been properly warmed up. Before engaging in winter activities, give yourself time to warm up and stretch your muscles to increase your response time, improve flexibility and avoid injury. Some easy ways to warm up include things like doing jumping jacks, dynamic stretches (while moving) or jogging for a few minutes. This will also help your body fight off the cold as you prepare to get outside. 

5. Make sure you’re visible 

The sun is setting earlier than ever. If you plan to work out or enjoy activities later in the day, be sure to wear reflective clothing and consider bringing a headlamp. This will help ensure that others can see you, especially if you’re using bike lanes, shoulders, sidewalks or crossing intersections. 

6. Watch for signs of hypothermia or frostbite 

Frostbite and hypothermia can happen when we are exposed to freezing temperatures for too long. Here are some ways to avoid and treat these conditions if you are out in the cold. 

Cold temperatures and wind can cause damage to your skin or underlying tissues, causing frostbite. This condition most commonly occurs in the extremities, including your hands, feet and ears. If you’re out in the cold, be sure to make sure these areas are adequately protected from the elements and moisture. Symptoms of frostbite include cold skin, the sensation of pins and needles, numbness and inflamed or discolored skin. If you notice these symptoms, move to a warm area indoors and seek medical attention. Keep in mind that you may not notice frostbite right away, especially if your hands or feet feel numb, so it’s important to remain vigilant.  

Staying outside for too long in cold temperatures or windy conditions can cause a dangerous drop in body temperature. This condition commonly occurs when a person is not adequately dressed for cold temperatures or if they are exposed to the elements for an extended period. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slow or shallow breathing, confusion and memory loss, slurred or mumbled speech, loss of coordination and a slow or weak pulse. If you or someone else may be experiencing hypothermia, move to a warm dry shelter, remove any wet clothing, warm your body with dry clothing or blankets and drink warm liquids. If a hypothermic person does not rapidly improve, seek medical attention. If the person falls unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, call 911 for help right away. 

7. Explore new activities 

If you’re looking for new ways to stay active over the winter, here are some ideas of things to try. 

  • Go skating at a local ice rink or head to The Rec rink on campus 
  • Enjoy sledding or tubing in a safe area with plenty of snow coverage 
  • Play childhood games like tag 
  • Build a snow fort or a maze 
  • Have a snowball fight 
  • Build a snowman 
  • Visit The Rec while people are away (free for Buff OneCard holders during Winter Break Appreciation Week
  • Try out snowshoeing 
  • Head out for a winter hike 
  • Jog or walk around your neighborhood or explore new places around campus 

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