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Stay active in cold weather: Tips to on how to get outside safely

Whether it’s a stroll with the kids on a cool winter evening, or sledding down the steep town hill, being prepared for the cold means you don’t have to let the winter chill keep you from getting outdoors. We all know that getting outside year-round can greatly benefit your health, so it’s important to take weather conditions into account and avoid doing too much when you do get out.    

“There are many benefits to staying active in the cold,” said Chadd Rudisill, physical therapist at WellSpan Orthopedics in Hanover. “Cold weather exercise can boost your metabolism, burn calories, and boost your mood.” However, if it’s too cold, stay home, he added.  

“If you prepare correctly, you can still attain the benefits of exercising in the cold safely and keep it relatively comfortable,” Rudisill said. “This way you can maintain your fitness level over the winter and have a good base built up for when warmer weather returns.”  

Stay safe:  

  •    Try exercising while it’s light outside and pick and choose the slightly warmer days, after school or on weekends. After dark, go as a group to be safe.
  •    Be mindful of ice and slippery ground.
  •    Take the wind chill into account and avoid outdoor activity in extreme cold. A temperature below zero degrees Fahrenheit or a wind chill below -18 is considered dangerous.
  •     If you haven’t been exercising, check with your doctor before starting a new activity. 

Gear up  

  •     Dress 20 degrees warmer than it is outdoors to avoid over-dressing and overheating, especially if you are doing something physical like jogging or sledding.
  •      Wear a warm hat and consider a scarf for your face and neck.
  •      Put on layers, layers, and more layers. Two or three light layers help trap warm air against your body.
  •      Wear wool or synthetic fabric while avoiding cotton clothing. This will keep you from losing body heat.
  •       Don’t forget your mittens. Keeping your fingers together will create more warmth.
  •       Hydration is important in colder weather. 

Cooling down  

  •       Take a hot shower to avoid the post-activity chills
  •        Change into clean, dry clothes.
  •        Drink a warm beverage. 

There is no reason why the winter chill should keep families from enjoying the outdoors. It may involve more planning and coordination, but the fresh air will do wonders for parents and kids who feel trapped by screens and the same old toys inside. 

WellSpan is a non-profit, integrated health system that serves communities in Central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.  

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