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Preparing for winter exercise

Cold weather exercise places greater demands on the body, but a little preparation will ensure you stay active all winter.

Preparing for winter exercise

You started 2013 off with a health bang and have managed to stick to your weekly exercise goals fairly well all through autumn. But as the change of season approaches once again, how will you prepare for being active during the winter months?

Well, while willpower and incentives are great exercise motivators, as the cooler weather creeps in its not just mind over matter that you need to be worried about.

Sure it gets harder to wake up and face the cold and dark on the morning run and of course cravings kick in as we leave work for home on those rainy and windy evenings. But aside from that, the cold weather also increases our risk of injury.

If you’re not prepared for the cold conditions you could be putting your body and your exercise regimen at risk, warn health experts.

In fact, hospital data shows that during the winter months sporting injuries can increase by more than 30 per cent.

Playing sport or exercising in cold conditions can cause all matter of injuries, big and small, from sprains and strains to blisters and in extreme cold weather conditions, frostbite, hypothermia and even snow blindness.

Like all good things in life, practice and preparation makes perfect, so don’t let wintry conditions become a barrier to your exercising.

“Exercising in cold weather no doubt places extra demands on the body, which can lead to reduced sporting performance and injuries. However this doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising in winter. Most cold-related injuries can be prevented with good preparation and the correct equipment,” Dr David Bolzonello, from Sports Medicine Australia, assures us.

“By following a few simple preparation tips your risk of injury will be decreased – to keep you enjoying being active throughout the whole of winter,” Bolzonello adds.

Here are his tips to help you prepare for winter sports and exercise:

  • Acclimatise yourself to exercising in colder weather. For example, train outdoors instead of inside.
  • Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are at greater risk of injury. Warm up, stretch and cool down for longer than usual.
  • Be aware that sunburn can occur even on cold and cloudy days (especially when skiing or snowboarding as UV radiation is more severe in alpine regions). Apply broad-spectrum 30+ sunscreen to exposed skin. Also wear eyewear with UV protection.
  • Drink water before, during and after activity.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. While an alcoholic drink seems to warm you up, it actually dilates your blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the skin thereby increasing heat loss by exchange to cold air.
  • Dress in layers to trap heat and prevent heat loss. Add or remove layers of clothing as necessary according to exercise level/conditions.
  • Make sure footwear fits you properly. Footwear that is too tight or too loose will affect skin circulation and cause blisters.
  • Those with a pre-existing medical condition affecting the feet, such as diabetes, should see a doctor before taking part in winter sports.
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