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January 13, 2012 06:05 PM

Staying Safe While Exercising In Cold Weather

sioux falls, sd


Studies have shown regular, moderate exercise can keep you healthy and even prevent colds. But is it safe to work out in the cold?

The air is as cold as it's ever been so far this winter, but that doesn't stop 24-year-old Kristi McDermott from a run at Sertoma Park.

"If I'm going to run, I am running outside," McDermott said.

But the cold weather can make exercising challenging and even dangerous if runners, like McDermott, aren't careful.

"Parts of my body that I don't think are involved in running get cold, like my fingers and my ears. Sometimes I have to stop at a gas station just to warm up," McDermott said.

National Institute for Athletic Health and Performance Associate Director Thayne Munce says covering exposed skin is critical.

"The biggest risk is not so much hypothermia or lower body temperature, it will be more form frost bite if the air temperatures are at freezing or below," Munce said.

Layers are important, but too many can get exercisers in trouble.

"And also, you don't want to overheat because there is a catch 22 effect," Munce said. "If you overheat, your body is going to sweat and eventually that sweat is going to evaporate and cool your body. That is going to swing the pendulum in the other direction towards hypothermia. You do have to be careful about over-bundling as well."

And for those who decide to brave these chilly temperatures for a good run outside McDermott says the best advice she can give is to stay hydrated. 

"Even though you're not sweating when it is cold, it doesn't mean you can't get dehydrated." McDermott said.

Dry winter air can aggravate asthma for some people. Munce recommends covering the nose and mouth while exercising outdoors to trap humidity.
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