Last update: November 18, 2020
Staying Active During the Winter: General Safety Tips for Outdoor Fun During COVID-19
Many people are concerned about the increase in the time spent sedentary since quarantining due to the pandemic. Being sedentary significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Unfortunately, spending more time seated can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. CVD causes one in four of all deaths- that means a person dies every thirty-six seconds.
Just because we are experiencing a pandemic, you don’t have to give up on your fitness. In fact, it is more important now to keep up your cardiovascular health so you can ward off illness. You still need to keep your heart healthy while isolating from most other folks. Luckily, you can do many motivating activities in colder weather. However, it is crucial to stay safe during your outdoor fun.
What about COVID-19 makes winter fitness different?
Normally people flock to the gym in record numbers in the winter months. However, with the pandemic expected to continue to worsen over the winter, it is vital to take precautions. Unfortunately, that means avoiding staying in close quarters indoors with others unless necessary. Because the virus spreads faster indoors, many are opting to move their fitness outside.
Can I get fit outside in the winter?
Yes, you just have to prepare a bit more than usual. To stay fit during the winter, here are some general safety tips to remain safe during COVID-19.
- When outside, stay warm with moisture-wicking fabric, wool or fleece outer gear, a wind-resistant jacket, and a hat and gloves. Wear layers so that if you need to remove one to allow sweat to escape, you can.
- The unexpected can always happen. Bring a phone to ensure that you are never stranded.
- Wear bright colors to make sure that cars see you from a distance. Use daylight hours to exercise and avoid exercising at night. With it turning dark earlier, wear reflective clothing, or add a battery-powered blinking light to your jacket or bike.
- Make sure it’s a safe temperature to go outside. Avoid the early morning, where the weather is typically the coldest. People exposed to freezing temperatures or wind chill are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite quickly.
- Warm-up. Cold muscles are more likely to suffer an injury. Start by briskly walking or running. Sudden cold air is more likely to trigger asthma attacks or blood pressure increases.
- Stay hydrated. You will feel less thirsty in the winter than you do in the summer, but you can still become dehydrated. Make sure to drink one or two cups of water before exercising. Drink one cup of water every 20 minutes.
What are the ways to stay active during the winter?
There are ways to stay active during the winter but also remain safe during the pandemic. The following activities are ideal:
- Hiking: As long as you have a solid pair of watertight hiking boots, you can continue your expeditions this winter. When you are choosing a trail, don’t overestimate your ability. Snow will add resistance to your trek.
- It’s the perfect time to explore local national or state parks. State parks offer a “First Day Hike” program for families to welcome the new year by getting a free, guided hike on New Year’s Day.
- Walking: For those looking to stick closer to home, consider walking the neighborhood.
- If you have a furry friend, grab them (so long as you avoid long walks significantly below freezing). If your dog seems uncomfortable, avoid taking them outside.
- You also can consider painting rocks and hiding them around the neighborhood. When the snow thaws, the neighborhood children will get joy out of their newfound treasures.
- Sledding: Adults can sled too! Trudging up a hill while dragging a sled will burn more calories than your average walk.
- Ice skating: Channel your inner poise, bring out your inner child, and hit the ice. Whether inside or outside, ice skating blasts calories.
- Cross country skiing: Lighter and narrower skis than traditional alpine skiing, these skis are perfect for longer transportation lengths across the snow. Cross country skiing does not allow for any forms of assistance like ski lifts.
- Snowshoeing: This footwear enables walking over snow by distributing the weight over a larger area, so you don’t sink into the snow.
- Skiing or snowboarding: This is the most expensive option, but it is amusing. The biggest issue with hitting the slopes is the potential for crowds. Call first to make sure you can stay safe.
What if it’s not safe to go outside?
If you cannot go outside due to freezing temps, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo your physical activity. Switch your routine up and stay at home. Unsure what to do?
- Were you caught off guard? For a last-minute workout, check out Youtube.com to search for yoga, high-intensity interval training, strength training, or Tabata.
- Head to the library to rent fitness DVDs. Try something new.
- Do you have a video game system? Buy or rent fitness games.
- Create a home gym.
The pandemic is an unexpected and unpredictable time. The increased time inside has given us more time to focus on our personal intentions. However, While it is more crucial now more than ever before to stay healthy, be flexible in your fitness goals. We are all feeling the pressure, so be kind to yourself. With a little planning, you can stay safe and thrive.