How to stay safe while active outdoors in the Minnesota winter

Posted by Jessica Hess, MA, LAT, Ridgeview Rehab Specialties on Dec 12, 2018 8:28:53 AM


Like it or not, winter is here.

For most of us, the thought of exercising outdoors during the Minnesota winter is concerning. We don’t want to slip and fall, we want to avoid being too cold, and that wind – it can be harsh.

Done right, outdoor exercise in the winter can be safe – and fun.

Follow these winter safety tips

  • Check the weather forecast first and plan accordingly. Plan to dress as if it were 10-15 degrees warmer than what it actually is.  This way as your body temperature increases, you will not become too hot.  But remember the first couple minutes will be a little chilly.
  • Dress in layers. This way you can easily remove and add clothing according to your body temperature and activity level.  It is a good idea for your first layer to be a material that easily wicks away sweat, like a Dri-Fit® material.  As your body temperature increases, you will begin to sweat.  If your skin remains wet, you will feel cold and are more susceptible to hypothermia.  For that same reason, try to stay dry during outdoor activity – avoid puddles or exercising while it’s snow and wet conditions.
  • Remember to always cover your head, face, neck and hands. You lose most of your heat through the unprotected surfaces of your body.  This will protect you from both hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Avoid falls with appropriate shoe wear. Having a winter trail shoe/boot or YakTrax® will help provide traction and lower your risk of falling. 
  • Stay hydrated. When exercising in colder temps, we don’t always get the sensation of thirst.  But remember you are still sweating and losing body water. 
  • Don’t forget sunscreen. On sunny winter days, it is still possible that your exposed skin can burn.

Be mindful of the signs of hypothermia and frostbite

Hypothermia – you will notice that some of these signs are similar to those we may feel during exercise.  Be mindful of those times that feel different than normal and discontinue exercise immediately.

What are the signs of frostbite?

Frostbite - at first your skin will become very cold and you may experience a prickling feeling, this can quickly and easily progress to the following:

  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin

Refer to this link to better understand the signs and symptoms of frostbite and how to treat it.

 So go out and enjoy your activity!  Whether you enjoy walking or snow shoeing, running or skiing.  With the right safety measures, winter exercise can still be fun and enjoyable!

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Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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