Effects of Winter Runs

December 21st, 2014 | By Lindsey Ebert No Comments


The sunny, cool days of fall are quickly fleeting, as Georgia begins to transition into the colder temperature months. I have reluctantly begun trading in my running shorts and t-shirts for thermal pants and jackets. You may have even brought out a heavy coat as the mornings have become frostier. Before we know it, we will be in the full-blown winter season, potentially facing snow and even ice storms once again.

Although Georgia has a fairly mild winter season in comparison to our northern neighbors, many people’s day-to-day lives are affected by the colder days. This most likely will include your outdoor exercise routine.

As we all know, exercise has a wide range of positive effects on your body. Your morning stroll around the neighborhood isn’t only helping you shed those extra pounds, though. Statistics show that mild exercise also strengthens your immune system … an added benefit that the eyes don’t ever see! 

However, this isn’t quite the case in colder months. The lower temperatures and your daily walk or run are both considered stressors to the human body. Each stressor weakens the immune system. When combined, exercise and cold weather multiply this immunodepression. In other words, winter athletes or those who exercise in cold weather are more susceptible to a weaker immune system during this time, making you more likely to become ill.

An example of this is an upper respiratory infection. Cold weather alone makes one more likely to develop an infection, but, when combined with intense exercise, these odds increase substantially.

Don’t let the risk of developing a cold this December mark the end of your walking or running routine. There are benefits of cold weather exercise as well. These benefits include everything from preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder to increased endurance. When proper precautions are taken, you can maintain your fitness and health levels even as the temperatures begin to drop. Use these three quick tips to begin your preparations for this winter:

Properly layer. Keeping your core warm is vital. When you layer up, start with a synthetic material. This will draw the moisture away from your body as you sweat. Next, add a fleece or wool layer for added warmth. If necessary, the final layer should be waterproof material in order to repel wind and rain or snow. Don’t forget your head, fingers, and toes! A large portion of your body heat is lost through your head, so make sure to bring a hat.

Check the forecast. When possible, avoid the rain and wind. When water or snow is added into the winter mix, our bodies find it more difficult to regulate temperature. On particularly wet days, consider an indoor cross-training activity or a treadmill.

Know your limits. While it is considered safe to walk or run in colder months, those with pre-existing health conditions should take extra precaution. Talk to your doctor before creating your winter running schedule if you have asthma or heart problems, as these may be further irritated by the cold.

Following these easy tips will keep you safe during your cold weather routine and may even decrease the likelihood of getting ill. So don’t use the colder days as an excuse to slack on what you have built so far. Simply monitor the conditions and pay attention to your body signs to have a successful season.

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