Be Prepared for Winter Exercise

By: Rebecca Mathien, MUSC Dietetic Intern

Fall is quickly approaching, which means colder months are right around the corner. For those of us who are accustomed to working out outside in the heat and humidity, the fall can be a breath of fresh air. Crisp mornings and cool evenings leave a lot of us excited to get exercising outside. Depending on where you live, those mild fall days may be limited and the blustery cold winter will begin to set in. 


For some, exercising outside in the winter may be their preference. But for others, winter-like conditions can become a huge barrier. Stay tuned for a few tips on how to stay motivated to exercise in the cold, but for now let’s look at how the cold impacts our NUTRITION!


Maintaining body temperature in the cold is important for performance. The tendency is to bundle up before heading out into the cold for a workout, and proper layering is essential. However, too many layers may cause problems down the road with hydration, specifically causing increased sweat rates if overdressed. Which brings up the super important topic of FLUID


Hydration is just as important in cold environments as it is in hot and humid environments. The difference is that the cold alters our thirst mechanism, so we don’t feel as thirsty. This causes dehydration. Athletes tend to consume 10-50% less food and fluid in cold environments, so be aware and make sure you are adequately hydrating!


Fueling in the cold is also vital. Food can be used as a source to generate heat, helping to maintain core body temperature. The amount of fuel needed is typically not different than in temperate environments UNLESS you are shivering. Shivering consumes muscle glycogen, leading to increased needs. 


Staying motivated in the winter can be a challenge and may require shifts in location and time of workouts but it is still possible to stay active. Grab an accountability partner or sign up for a workout class. Purchase a new piece of cold-weather clothing that will get you excited to be outside. Try a new activity or download a free fitness app. As the daylight wanes and the temps drop, remind yourself of how great you feel AFTER workouts. We know you won't regret it!


What are your favorite ways to stay active in the winter? 

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