Health Topics Information

Cold Weather and Exercise

Cold Weather and Exercise

Frigid temperatures can discourage even the most motivated exercisers. It may be easy to pack away your workout gear for the winter, but you don't have to let cold weather be the end of your fitness routine. Consider exercise is every bit as important as eating, sleeping and breathing... It should not be viewed as an ancillary part of your day, but rather a necessity.

Exercise is safe for almost everyone, even in cold weather. But if you have certain conditions, such as asthma, heart problems or Raynaud's disease, check with your doctor first to review any special precautions you need based on your condition or your medications.

These tips can help guide your outdoor winter exercise and keep you safe:

  1. Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
  2. Check weather conditions and wind chill. Health risks increase when the combined temperature and wind chill falls below -20°F. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and don’t ignore them.

Schedule exercise into your appointment book the way you would an important meeting or social event. Set the time for it and then make no excuses about keeping it.

And, please don't use your age as an excuse to avoid exercise, because no matter what your age, exercise can provide enormous benefits for your health. As a matter of fact, if you happen to be over 40, it's especially important to either start or step up your exercise program. This is the time of life when physical strength, stamina, balance and flexibility start to decline, and exercise can help to counteract that dramatically.

If outdoor exercise is not an option, (or just doesn’t appeal to you) consider indoor choices at home or a fitness facility. Good luck with your exercising journey!

Jeanne DeKrey


(Jeanne DeKrey, PT, DPT, PRC, is a physical therapist at CHI St. Alexius Health Human Performance Center)