New Castle News

Healthy Living: Lori Brothers

January 9, 2014

Lori Brothers: If it’s not too cold, get out and walk

NEW CASTLE — If you can get past the resistance of venturing out into the cold, there are some benefits to fresh air that may motivate you to get some exercise outside even during the winter months.

There is no question that fresh air makes you happier. More oxygen reduces the lactic acid build-up in your muscles which reduces cramping. And when you get more oxygen to the brain, it improves serotonin levels, which lifts your mood.

On the other hand, low oxygen levels which can result from not enough movement, produce poor concentration, cramping of legs, swollen ankles, general fatigue, recurring respiratory infections, and stress and anxiety.

Exercises performed outdoors in fresh air offer increased aerobic benefits. If you have health issues, such as COPD, that require you to avoid cold air, please note that all aerobic exercise, whether fresh air or inside, delivers more oxygen to the body and brain.

If you are going to brave going out in the cold for some exercise, there are some important tips that can keep you healthy and safe.

Dangerous weather is the exception. Make sure you pay attention to the temperature before you head outside. Once I headed out with the determination of an arctic polar bear. Halfway through my first lap, I felt like my low battery light clicked on. I didn’t complete my lap, heading back to my vehicle instead. I discovered that it was 5 degrees. Oops, a bit too cold.

When you do head out, start by warming up with some stretching for your muscles and take your first lap slow.

Walk at a moderate or slow pace to ensure that you are careful on surfaces that may become icy. Always assume that areas that look dark or wet may be icy. Also, use handrails when available, such as on steps.

It is best to layer clothing, and experts say that wearing non-cotton materials made to keep moisture off of your skin is the best to fight the cold. Something like under-armor if you have it available is good for the first layer.

Wearing at least three layers of clothing is good because you can always take off layers if you get too warm. The only article of clothing that should not be layered is socks. Just one thick pair of socks or a pair of wool socks will keep feet warm and avoid blisters.

Boots with cleats are out there for sale,if you really mean business this winter. Otherwise, hiking boots or snow boots can give you good traction and keep feet warm and dry.

Protect your head, hands and ears. Use gloves, hats or ear muffs and scarves. If you extremities get too cold, head inside to warmth and shelter.

Make sure you plan enough time for your outdoors walks to avoid rushing. This attitude also creates awareness and keeps your attention on the walk to avoid accidents.

Wearing bright clothing can be beneficial so that you are visible to drivers. Pay attention to traffic to make sure they are stopped before crossing an intersection, especially if weather creates slick conditions. If you can, head to a park or walking trail designated for walking.

It’s funny that we forget that we need water in the winter, as we do in summer months. Make sure that you take water with you on your winter walk. Winter air is dry and can be dehydrating. And even though you may not realize it, you do sweat while walking in the winter.

If you’re not convinced that walking outside in the winter is your thing, consider walking at indoor locations such as local schools or malls, or exercise in your own house. A little marching in place goes a long way to combat cold weather inactivity.

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Healthy Living: Lori Brothers
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