Taking precautions during cold-weather walking

Cold days are here. Do you know the best ways to exercise and stay safe?

For most people, it actually may be safer to exercise outside in cooler temperatures than on hot, humid days. Your body heats up as you walk, so in warm weather you’re getting a double dose of heat.

In cold weather, though, you can regulate your internal temperature more easily. If you get too hot, you should slow down, open your jacket or remove your hat or gloves. You can solve the problem instantly. There are, however, some people who should take precautions while exercising outdoors in the winter.

Heart patients

Heart patients should consult their doctor before walking in cold weather. As the temperature outside drops, the body tends to pull blood toward the trunk by constricting the blood vessels. If you start exercising, that puts extra strain on your heart. Walking can overcome that somewhat because it dilates the blood vessels in the legs. The trick is to warm up slowly.

If it’s freezing outside and you don’t warm up before exercising, you could set yourself up for angina or a heart attack. (That’s why so many people have heart attacks shoveling snow!) I like to warm up inside, before my body even hits the cold air. Try it. You’ll feel better about going outside, too, because you’ll feel warmer right away. And you’ll create less stress on your heart.


People with diabetes are also at risk in cold weather. Because walking in the cold burns more calories, diabetics burn more sugar and may become hypoglycemic. Check with your doctor on how to manage your medications or your food intake to regulate your blood sugar during winter exercise.

Diabetic walkers also may be more at risk for developing frostbite due to poor circulation in their extremities. Warm socks, gloves and a hat are essential. If you’ve got loss of feeling in your feet or fingers, check for a condition called cyanosis — a blue coloring of the skin that’s the first sign of frostbite. See your doctor immediately.


Asthmatics know that cold air can often cause a bronchial spasm or asthma attack. Try wearing a mask or scarf over your face to help warm up the air before it hits the bronchial tubes. If covering your face doesn’t help, see your doctor for advice on medications.

Play it safe

If you have heart problems, diabetes or asthma, check with your doctor before exercising in the cold to find out what precautions to take or if cold weather automatically means indoor walking for you.

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