6 Ways to Stay Safe When Exercising in Cold Weather

January 22, 2014
by Michael Barber
6 Ways to Stay Safe When Exercising in Cold Weather

There's no reason to give up outdoor exercise when the weather turns cold. With these six safety tips, a winter workout is a great way to vary your routine and stay in shape year-round.

Layer It Up

It's important to dress for warmth and comfort when you exercise in cold weather. Start with tight synthetic undergarments made of polypropylene, that wick moisture away from your body. Next, layer on wool or fleece for insulation, and top with a protective waterproof layer. If you are very thin, you may need an extra insulating layer than a heavier person. Layering allows you to remove clothes as your body heats-up. 

Protect Yourself

Hands, feet, face and ears are most susceptible to the effects of cold weather. This is because blood flow is focused on your core. Protect against frostbite with a warm hat or headband, fleece-lined mittens or gloves, and thermal socks. If the weather is particularly cold, wear a ski mask or scarf. They not only protects your face, but they also warm the air before you breathe it into your lungs. Also, don't forget sunscreen if your face is exposed. 

Adjust For Cold Weather

Take five minutes for jumping jacks or light aerobics so you're warm when you go outdoors. Start slow as you acclimate to cold-weather workouts, because your body needs time to adjust. Plan your route so the wind is at your back on the last leg of your run because you'll be sweaty, and the wind on your back will be less chilling and stressful on your body. Be sure you check the wind chill factor so you aren't exposing yourself to dangerous temperatures. 

Know the Danger Signs

Frostbite and hypothermia are the two main risks that go with cold-weather workouts. Frostbite most often affects exposed skin like face and ears, although your hands and feet are also vulnerable. Early warning signs are a painful prickly sensation, numbness, and red or pale gray skin color. Hypothermia most often occurs in wet and snowy weather, and symptoms include shivering and loss of coordination. Get immediate care are your nearest urgent care or emergency room if you think you have frostbite or hypothermia.

Be Smart

The risk of injury increases in wet winter weather, so make sure you are wearing the right shoes. Work out with a buddy if you can, and if you do exercise alone, tell someone where you're planning to run and when you expect to get back. Know when to stay in doors. For instance, if the temperature is much below zero, conditions are wet or icy, or the wind chill factor is high, hit the gym instead. Remember to hydrate even if you don't feel thirsty. Drink before, during and after your workout, and carry an energy bar for emergencies. 


Take a shower and change clothes as soon as you're finished exercising. Sitting around in cold, wet clothes is a great way to get sick, or cause muscle cramps and fatigue. Some experts recommend a cool shower after exercising. This can actually be more comfortable than a warm shower after a cold-weather workout. 

Cold weather workouts are a great way to keep up your fitness routine if you follow these six safety precautions.