By: Robert E. Agee M.D.
The CDC defines physical activity as anything that gets your body moving. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health (aerobic) and muscles (Strengthening). Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75minutes of vigorous exercise a week. With muscle strengthening, adults need to strength train all muscle groups two days per week. Children and adolescents need to do one hour of exercise per day. Before engaging in any exercise, you must first stretch. These guide lines are great during spring and summer, but when the weather changes and it gets cold, what should you do then? During the winter months, you must take extra precautions when you exercise. You should warm up for the first 5-10 minutes by jogging or walking and then stretching for five minutes.
After you have warmed up, it is safe to begin your exercise routine. Cold weather exposure can make outdoor activity uncomfortable and dangerous for those who are not prepared.
When temperatures are cold, you may need to warm up longer to get your blood flowing and stretch longer before you start exercising to prevent minor injuries like sprains and strains. Two dangerous medical conditions that can
occur during cold weather exercise are frostbite and hypothermia. To prevent these illnesses, you must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms.
The first symptom of trouble in cold weather is shivering. Shivering is your body trying to generate heat to bring your core temperature back to normal, and should not be ignored because it could indicate cold illness.
Frostbite is the freezing of superficial tissues of the face, ears, fingers and toes. Treatment includes getting the person to a warm, dry place, and remove constrictive clothing. Elevate affected areas and apply a warm compresses to the area(s). Do not rub frostbitten areas or apply direct heat.
Hypothermia is a more severe response to cold exposure that is defined as a significant drop in core body temperature. Treatment includes taking the person to a dry, warm place or warming the victim with blankets, extra dry clothing, or your own body heat.
To improve your comfort and safety while exercising in the cold, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:
1. Layer clothing
2. Cover your head
3. Cover your mouth
4. Stay dry
5. Keep your feet dry
6. Stay hydrated
7. Avoid alcohol
Consult your physician or health care professional before beginning any exercise or diet program.
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