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Play Safe in the Snow

Nearly everyone can have fun exercising outdoors in the winter.  Brian Pickering, MSE, ATC, PES at LRH offers some tips to stay healthy and avoid missing out on the family fun.

It may not look like it, but winter is here. We have been blessed with limited snow and above average temperatures.Maybe this whole El Nino weather pattern is going to stick around and create a warmer than average winter with less snow. No matter the weather or the potential destination, the holiday season is a popular time for families to spend time participating in their favorite outdoor winter activities be it skiing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing.Here are some tips to stay healthy and avoid missing out on the family fun.

Start Training Now – That vacation may only be a couple of weeks away, but it’s not too late to get a slight cardiovascular base.  You don’t want to be the person lagging behind and causing the rest to wait for you.  Your training should include some aerobic activities (feel free to mix it up with biking and/or swimming) and some strength training of both the upper and lower body.  Additional training should also include balance training and flexibility.  Feel free to take some recovery time, but make it a goal to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in at least 5 times a week.

Check Your Equipment – Has it been a whole year since you last strapped on those ski boots?  Take some time before you leave to make sure your equipment is in good working order.  If you have kids joining you in the fun make sure that they have not outgrown their equipment.  Alternatively, if you have been counting on some growing to fit into some equipment, make sure it is not too loose.  Oversized equipment is one of the top dangers in any sport, but especially those that involve potential falls and crashes.  One of the last things you would want to do is show up with broken or too small equipment and not be able to participate.

Dress Appropriately – Dressing in layers can provide warmth and the desired movement to make the outing enjoyable.  Layering allows you to maintain your core body temperature.  A common mistake is to have too much clothing, making you overheat after exercising begins.  Remember the body will give off heat from the muscles working.  The first layer should be a thin layer designed to pull sweat away from the body.  Avoid cotton as that can hold sweat and cause the skin to remain wet,  potentially leading to hypothermia or frostbite.  The second layer should be a warm layer designed to insulate the body.  Fleece is an excellent choice.  The outer layer should be something that can block wind and water, yet be breathable.  Remember to care for feet, hands, and head as well.

Hydrate, Fuel, and Use Sun Screen – Even though you may not be thirsty it is important to hydrate while exercising outdoors.  Keeping well hydrated allows your body to stabilize body temperature, maintain energy levels, and stay mentally sharp.  The increased sweating, respiration rates, and the dry winter air can cause dehydration quickly with little warning.  Keep a few small snacks available to recharge your system if needed.  Fruit, vegetables, and nuts are excellent options that can be easily brought with you.  Remember any time you have exposed skin outdoors, you are susceptible to sunburn.  Select a sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection.  A lip balm that contains sunscreen is also an important choice that is often overlooked.  A pair of sunglasses or goggles can protect the eyes from the glare of the snow and ice.

Nearly everyone can have fun exercising outdoors in the winter.  Those with certain medical conditions such as asthma or heart conditions should check with their doctor about necessary precautions.  With the warm weather, don’t become discouraged and pack away the snow equipment.  There are excellent options a short drive away that can create excellent family memories.  Plus, the outdoor exercise will help burn those extra calories from the holiday meals.

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