Rich and warm comfort food is one of the biggest perks of the holiday season. Like many American households, your dining room table is bound to serve turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, ham, stuffing, pumpkin pie, eggnog and other treats. But while holiday food is something to look forward to, an expanding waistline is not. This is all the more reason not to give up your workout routine this time of the year.However, cold weather poses an obstacle. How are you supposed to dress? Do you still need to stay hydrated if you don’t sweat? When do you know you’re better off indoors?
How much exercise do you need?
For starters, let’s review how much physical activity you should be getting. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise every week. Examples of the former include fast walking or riding a bike on level ground, while the latter may come in the form of jogging, basketball or fast bike riding through some hills. Not all aerobic activity needs to take place in one session. Ten-minute increments throughout the week, such as walking up a few flights of stairs at work, can be effective as long they add up.
Meanwhile, there should be a couple of days per week when, instead of aerobic exercise, you focus on muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight-lifting or use of resistance bands.
Exercise is very important in light of the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. The CDC estimated that more than one-third of adults in the country are obese, which increases the risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and some forms of cancer.
What do you do in bad weather?
Just because the weather outside is cold is no reason to stop exercising. However, you have to make some important adjustments. Experts from the Mayo Clinic, as well as an article published by U.S. News & World Report, have several tips that can help you stay safe and fit:
- Check with your health care provider first. Conditions like asthma and heart disease can make exercise unsafe in cold weather. Talk to your doctor first to make sure that you can keep exercising in the winter and find out if there are any adjustments you need to make.
- Acclimate. Cold weather takes some getting used to. Start out slow, then work yourself up to a more vigorous level of exercise.
- Work out with a friend. Company will keep you motivated and help you stay safe in the cold.
- Recognize signs of hypothermia and frostbite. The first signs of frostbite are stinging sensations or loss of feeling. To prevent frostbite, wear thin liners inside your gloves that draw sweat away and shoes that are big enough to accommodate thermal socks. Hypothermia initially leads to shivering, speech problems, loss of coordination and fatigue. Hypothermia usually requires emergency medical care.
- Wear the right amount of clothing and safety gear. It’s important to dress enough to stay warm, but not to make yourself sweaty and cold. The key is to layer your clothing so that you can take articles off as needed. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material that draws sweat away from your skin, and from there, experiment with different combinations until you find one that works. Wearing a hat will also keep your head and ears warm. Sunscreen is important, too, even in the cold.
- Stay hydrated. You can still become dehydrated in cold weather. Replenish your fluids on a regular basis.
- Know when you need to stay indoors. Keeping track of the weather will give you an idea for if the weather is too extreme. Pay attention not just to precipitation and temperature, but also wind chill. If it’s 0 degrees Fahrenheit, try working out indoors.