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What to Wear for Your Winter Workout

posted Nov 5, 2015, 1:30 PM by Julia Quam

As the weather turns colder, you may be thinking about moving your workouts indoors for the winter. That’s a great option, but exercising outdoors in the cold also has some benefits according to experts interviewed by the Washington Post. Getting outdoors, even if the weather is less than ideal, can be a powerful mood booster. You may also burn more calories when you exercise in the cold because maintaining your body temperature requires extra effort. Exercising outdoors can also help you avoid gym equipment where germs can lurk. We also think incorporating some outdoor exercise into your winter routine can keep things from getting boring.

But exercising in the cold is not without risk. Learn the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and know how to avoid them. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you may be experiencing hypothermia or frostbite.

Proper apparel is key for your safety and comfort if you decide to venture outdoors for a cold weather workout. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the goal when dressing for the cold is to choose clothing that traps warm air near the body, but allows sweat to pass through and be wicked away from the body. This keeps you dry and warm throughout your workout.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends achieving this goal with three layers: a wicking layer closest to your body, an insulating layer on top of the wicking layer, and a wind-blocking shell on top. For specific fabric recommendations, check out this article on ACSM’s website. Both ACSM and ACE recommend avoiding cotton sweatshirts and tightly woven fabrics for the insulating layer because they tend to absorb and retain water.

Be sure that you can easily remove layers if you get too hot.  During your workout, you may want to remove the outer shell as you heat up and put it back on during rest periods or in wet or windy weather. 

In addition to layers, ACSM also recommends:

  • A hat to reduce heat loss from the head and neck – be sure to cover ears in cold, windy weather because they are particularly susceptible to frostbite
  • Bright, reflective clothing so you can easily be seen in low visibility conditions
  • Shoes with good traction for wet or icy conditions
  • Gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm and protected
  • In very cold weather, a scarf or mask to warm and humidify the air you breathe, minimizing irritation from the cold, dry air

We will cover cold weather hydration later this month, but it’s important to note that you continue to lose fluid through sweat, breath, and urine even in cold temperatures. Therefore, be sure to drink plenty of fluids during and after your winter workout.

For more advice on how to work out comfortably and safely in the cold weather, be sure to review the links in this post. We hope you’ll consider getting outside this winter!

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