Cold Weather Exercise

The NT Sports Medicine staff feels exercise can be performed safely in most cold weather without cold weather injuries. We request our coaches take a minute and review cold weather clothing with your athletes and insure our athletes wear the correct clothing as we begin to exercise during the coldest winter months. "It takes just as long to adapt to cold as it does to warm weather-usually two weeks-so it helps to be prepared with the right clothing," says Patrick Bird, a professor of exercise and sports sciences at the University of Florida. Please remind athletes that wearing multiple layers of clothing is their best bet; how warm they stay depends on how they layer.

The first layer, next to the skin, should fit snuggly and be lightweight. Look for material made from new "breathable" synthetics, such as polypropylene, found in some brands of thermal underwear. This fabric moves perspiration away from the skin. Avoid cotton, which loses all insulating ability when it soaks up moisture.

Polyester fleece, wool, or down are wise choices for the second layer, which should insulate from wind and cold. Wool retains its insulating ability when wet.

The third and top clothing layer should act as a protective shell against wind, rain, and snow. Look for water-resistant fabrics with plenty of zipper or Velcro "vents" that allow the body to breathe, so they do not trap moisture. Wear a hat and gloves to retain body heat and prevent frostbite on the ears or fingertips. Protect exposed skin with a moisturizer, sunscreen, and lip balm. Wear a warm facemask made of a wool blend on particularly cold days, as up to 30 percent of the body's heat is lost from the head's surface area.

Consider doing warm-up indoors first, wearing only one or two layers. Then once they go outdoors, have them remove or replace layers according to activity level. While performing the warm up inside, they should not wear so much clothing that they start to sweat profusely; sweating can reduce clothing's insular quality.

Remember to consider the wind chill factor when exercising in cold weather. Windy day air currents can increase the loss of body heat, as warmer insulating air surrounding the skin is continuously replaced by cooler air.