9 Ways to Make Exercising in Cold Temps Suck Less (But Do So Safely)


9 Ways to Make Exercising in Cold Temps Suck Less (But Do So Safely)

It’s another winter in the US and for most of us, that means very little sun, very cold temps, and the increasing desire to chuck all exercise plans out the window until spring.

Sound familiar?

Sometimes, it feels as if winter will never end, that it’s too cold to exercise (or even leave the house) and who will know if you stay home and eat Oreos for lunch anyway?

For those of you who love winter and find this time of year full of fantastic winter sports and beautiful winter scenes, maybe you should skip ahead to the next article.

However, if you think winter is a stinker, you’ve come to the right place.

Avoiding SAD

The truth is that if you do sit indoors and binge watch Breaking Bad, we will be jealous, but you greatly increase your risk of developing something called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This is when you feel depressed, hopeless, are not motivated and feel like a lead balloon. It’s a real thing but you can avoid it (or at least reduce the symptoms) by getting some exercise, hopefully the outdoor kind.

Don’t hit that “close” button! We know all your excuses and we are going to help make exercising in cold weather less sucky.

Exercising Hurts My Lungs

Exercising Hurts My Lungs

Why does cold air hurt my lungs? Good question. This is because cold air is very dry. That burning sensation you feel when you try to get in some exercise is simply the exchange of heat and water going in inside the lungs.

No, your lungs aren’t freezing, and you won’t die, contrary to popular belief. As long as you don’t have asthma, this feeling will pass in about 3 minutes, so just keep on breathing.

If you do have asthma, speak to your doctor about this and whether you can safely exercise outdoors.

It’s Too Cold to Exercise Outside!

When is it too cold to exercise outside?   Sometimes, it certainly feels that way, we agree. If the thermometer says minus 18, then it’s just too darn cold and you have a valid excuse. Otherwise, it’s perfectly safe to exercise outdoors.

Warmer will feel better. An ideal temperature is somewhere between 32 and 56 but we are betting that most days of the year, it isn’t 20 below zero.

It’s Not Worth the Effort

You are very wrong on that count. There are big, big benefits to exercising in the winter, such as:

  • Burning more calories with the same workout
  • Strengthening the heart more than exercising in warm temps
  • Increased hydration levels
  • Increased tolerance to cold
  • Vitamin D exposure
  • More energy
  • Improved mood
  • Reduction in SAD

No one can deny that these benefits aren’t worth the effort of dressing appropriately.

Making Winter Exercise Suck Less

OK, so you want the benefits but exercising in the cold plain old stinks? Let’s look at ways you can make it less whacked.

Problem Solver #1-Do Anything Outside

Exercise makes you think of drill sergeants

Sometimes, the problem lies in our own heads. If the word “exercise” makes you think of drill sergeants or your 7th grade gym teacher, don’t think of it as exercise. Give that snow and those temps the brush off by “playing” in the snow.

Build a snowman, build a snow fort, go play hockey, go ice skating, borrow your kid’s sled and find a big hill. What you do isn’t nearly as important as getting outdoors and actually doing it.

Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before you get started doing anything. Cold muscles tear more easily!  

Be sure to check weather conditions, including the wind chill factor before you step outside!

Problem Solver #2-Mind Over Matter

It’s a given that if you continue to say, “this sucks”, then it will. Stop saying that being outdoors sucks (even if it does). Your mind has far more power than you give it credit for. It is listening to everything you say, and it believes you.

Have you ever tried to fake being sick at work so you could call in sick the next day? Ever notice that by the end of the day, you wonder if you really are coming down sick? That is the power of your words doing its magic on your mind.

Stop saying how awful winter is and start saying how great it feels to be alive, what a wonderful day it is and how much fun you are having. Don’t be surprised to discover later on that you really do have a wonderful day full of fun.

Problem Solver #3-Embrace Those Winter Clothes

There is a time and a place for everything, including bikini’s and winter coats.

Don’t diss those winter clothes! They can keep you warm and comfortable, yet fashionable, if you have the right mindset.

To dress safely for outdoor exercise in the winter:

  • Dress in layers
  • Wear a silk or wool/cotton blend undershirt next to the skin to stay dry
  • Protect yourself from the wind or wet conditions
  • Bring along a hat, scarf, and gloves just in case they are necessary
  • Wear shoes with terrific traction

Problem Solver #4-Don’t Go Solo

 Get creative with your outdoor time and challenge

It’s tempting to either sit home alone or do something by yourself outside, but becoming a full-time hermit isn’t healthy.

Find friends or co-workers who really make you laugh. Get creative with your outdoor time and challenge a group of friends to come up with some fun filled ideas for getting off of the sofa. Then you can invite them back to your place for pizza.

Socializing is one guaranteed way to make getting some outdoor exercise something you will look forward to, rather than something you avoid.

Problem Solver #5-Go All Out Animal

No, not the Olivia Newton John song kind of animal, but seriously consider getting or going animal!

Get a rescue dog and take him/her on long walks or hiking adventures. Rent horses and explore the territory. Borrow someone’s donkey and let them haul firewood to your next campfire with friends. You could even take up bird watching and learn how to identify the fine feathered friends in your neighborhood.

Animals are awesome and somehow, just having one with you, makes getting outdoors even more fun.

Problem Solver #6-Take Music

Like animals, when you take your favorite tunes along for the ride, it makes whatever you are doing more enjoyable.

If you want to shake things up, you can find some interesting playlists online or on sites like Pinterest, where people post their favorite playlists for “ice skating” or even ice fishing!

Be careful if you are doing any type of activity where you might need to hear the sounds around you, such as a cars, to keep yourself safe. Never turn the volume up so high that you couldn’t hear a friend say “Hi” when they are standing right next to you. Trust us, you are going to want to be able to hear later on in life.

Problem Solver #7-See the Chiropractor

Chiropractor will determine the root cause of your pain

If you are having back or neck pain, or any type of joint pain, it will absolutely make exercising outdoors less sucky if you see the chiropractor first.

It’s always a great way to protect your back and neck! Your chiropractor will determine the root cause of your pain and set up a treatment plan. They can also advise you what types of exercise would be good/best/safe for you to do.

Best of all? Chances are excellent that you will get a chiropractic massage out of your visit and let’s be honest; massage makes everything suck less!

Problem Solver #8-Mix It Up

How can you stay active in the winter? Be sure to keep things interesting! Nothing kills your motivation to exercise, go outside, or do anything when it’s boring.

Not everything will suit you, but don’t be afraid to try new things, including:

  • Cross country skiing
  • Sledding
  • Ice skating
  • Downhill skiing
  • Ice Hockey
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snow tubing
  • Stadium stair climbing
  • Team snowball fights
  • Hiking
  • Snow biking
  • Snow boarding
  • Curling

Whatever you decide to do, always do a few minutes of warm up activity, such as running in place, and stretches to prevent damage to your lower back and neck.

Problem Solver #9-Pitch it All and Hit the Pool

While getting exercise outdoors has tons of benefits and can help prevent SAD, sometimes, you just can’t. Well, OK, you CAN but you just don’t want to. That’s OK.

Being happy about getting exercise is more important than pushing yourself to go outdoors and do things you hate.

On the days that you just can’t bring yourself to put on those snow boots one more time, don’t. Go do something indoors that you really love.

Exercise outdoors has tons of benefits

Take your kids, nieces, or nephews to that indoor waterpark. Go to the gym and rock climb. See if you can jump rope for 15 minutes nonstop.

Exercise in the winter doesn’t have to suck if you take the right precautions and take it with the right attitude.

If you found this article to be fun and/or informative, feel free to share it.

If Problem Solver #7 really hit home, we encourage you to call our friendly staff at Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab for a same day appointment.

We understand that you have choices when it comes to chiropractic care, which is why we are the only clinic to offer the three-promise guarantee, something you won’t find anywhere else.

Don’t spend this winter wishing the pain away, call one of our 4 clinics today and get started on the road to healing.

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Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.
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