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The health and fitness benefits of running, biking, skiing, and similar forms of exercise are undeniable — but when you plan on performing these exercises in cold weather, it is important to take precautions. Staying comfortable, motivated, and safe in adverse weather is possible, as long as you are smart about it! 

Even though we are still technically in summer, school is starting, and the temperatures will be falling soon. The time to prepare for winter weather is now! Here are a few tips that you should take into account before heading out to run, bike, or ski in cold weather.  

Ask your doctor about how any health conditions could impact your routine.

For most people, the benefits of cold weather exercise outweigh the risks as long as reasonable precautions are taken. However, if you have a respiratory health condition such as asthma; are undergoing an immune system-compromising treatment such as chemotherapy; or have any other question or concern regarding the impact of cold-weather exercise, it is best to consult a doctor before beginning. 

Check the weather before heading out.

When wind chills fall below 5 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 15 celsius) the risk for frostbite and hypothermia skyrockets. Snowfall, extreme wind, hail, and other adverse weather conditions can also increase the dangers associated with cold weather exercise. Checking the forecast before you head out is always a smart idea. 

Dress in layers.

Exercise causes your body to generate a great deal of heat — and this can lead to sweating, which (rather ironically) increases your risk for hypothermia. This is why dressing in layers is important. If you begin to sweat, you need the option of removing a small amount of clothing in order to maintain a healthy body temperature.  

Know the signs of frostbite/hypothermia.

Numbness, redness, a prickling sensation, and a feverish feeling are oftentimes the early warning symptoms of these potentially dangerous conditions. If you fear that cold weather is having a harmful effect, it is usually best to go indoors and rest.  

Protect your extremities.

When your body attempts to conserve heat, it reduces blood flow (and, therefore, the flow of warmth) to your extremities. This means that your hands, feet, and ears are oftentimes the first body parts affected by conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia. Bundling these areas up with hats, gloves, and extra socks can help you stay warm, comfortable, and safe. 

Hydration matters.

Cold air has a drying effect that rivals the heat of summer — but many people don’t associate winter weather conditions with dehydration. This can make the risk of dehydration even more acute. Bringing a water bottle along and paying close attention to your hydration levels is always a smart idea, regardless of the season.  

Let someone know your itinerary — or, better yet, exercise with a friend!

Because all exercise carries at least some level of risk, sharing your itinerary is always a good idea. This is especially important in winter time, as cold weather makes quick rescue times a priority for anyone who has been injured. Bringing a workout buddy along is a fantastic way of staying safe while also having someone to hold you accountable. Without a friend, getting out of bed on those cold winter mornings to hit the track can be considerably more difficult! 

Keep browsing the Top Fitness Mag archives for more useful tips on exercising under all types of conditions!