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I know how hard it can be to adjust to winter’s chill and darkness (at least in some parts of the country). But I also know that regularly getting outside to exercise -- especially to walk -- offers considerable mental and physical payback. I love nature’s power to soothe and stimulate, and because I believe in the power of walking year-round, I’ve learned how to make specific adjustments to better tolerate shorter days and cooler temperatures.
Here, my top five tips for staying safe, warm and happy so I can exercise in the cold all winter long:
1. Buddy up.
If there’s ever a time to get an exercise buddy, winter is it! There’s nothing like teaming up with another warm body on a cold day to get out and moving. My favorite exercise buddy: My cockapoo, Puppy.
2. Sleep late.
It’s not much fun to go out early when it’s still dark. So switch to a lunch break workout or a midafternoon refresher. If you have no choice but to exercise before or after work, be sure to wear reflective gear and carry a flashlight so drivers can see you at dawn (and dusk)!
3. Dress for success.
Wear layers that suit your environment, and remove items as you warm up. A windbreaker, hat and gloves can do wonders to keep you warm all over -- and you can easily remove them if you overheat.
4. Warm up where it’s warm.
Cold muscles are more prone to injury. So sip a cup of hot cider or green tea for inspiration before you head out in the cold, then jog up your stairs a few times or run in place to rev up your circulation.
5. Wait to stretch.
When you exercise in the cold, wait at least 10 minutes before stretching, or better yet, stretch only after your workout. If you can, lengthen your limbs indoors immediately after you exercise so chilly winds won’t cause your muscles to tighten.
Maggie Spilner is the author of three books on walking for health and fitness and was Prevention magazine's walking editor and club director for 17 years.
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Health - Beat Winter: How to Exercise in the Cold