Cold Weather Exercise

Winter is basically here! If you plan to do some exercising or any activity in the cold weather, be prepared and do it intelligently. This includes skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, running, cross country skiing, sledding, plus many more. Maintaining body heat to prevent hypothermia is key. Factors that will increase risk of hypothermia occurrence include precipitation (will lead to wet clothing), immersion, low body fat, older age (≥ 65 years) and hypoglycemia. Frostbite is also a concern, especially if skin is exposed. Be aware of  wind conditions as well, increased winds will increase body heat loss and reduce the insulation value of clothing.

Here are some clothing tips for exercising in the cold (1):

  • INNER LAYER: lightweight, polyester or polypropylene
  • MIDDLE LAYER: polyester fleece or wool
  • OUTER LAYER: protection from elements (wear ESPECIALLY if raining/snowing or windy)
  • Allow for venting to reduce sweating (wet skin will cool faster)
  • Reduce insulation as intensity of activity increases

It is also pertinent to be mindful of the potential of cold-induced asthma. The smooth muscles in the airway will contract, making the airway more narrow. This is particularly dangerous as it reduces the ability to breathe     (2). The severity of response to cold air stimuli varies tremendously and depends on a lot of factors , but it is good to be aware of! Generally, symptoms are minimal during exercise and occur 5-15 minutes post workout (2). Be sure to check with your doctor to be sure you are cleared to exercise in the cold, especially if you have a history with asthma.


1. American College of Sports Medicine. In: Thompson WR, Gordon NF, Pescatello LS, Eighth ed. ACSM’s guidelines for testing and prescription. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010

2. Giesbrecht, GG; Younes, M. Exercise– and cold-induced asthma. Can J Appl Physiol.1995; 20(3):300-314.



One response to this post.

  1. Asthma patients must take special care of exercising in the winter and they should protect their body from extreme cold. It is therefore important to consult one’s doctor to be cleared for exercise in the clod.


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