Walking in the winter offers you a refreshing change of pace. The invigorating cold air can clear your mind and reduce stress, which can be helpful for weight loss.

Getting outside during daylight hours also increases levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps calm cravings. Even if you have to walk slower because of the weather, you may be burning more calories. And trudging through snow or walking into the wind takes more energy.

Richland Public Health encourages healthy exercise but remember that winter weather requires some special preparation.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Allow at least 10 minutes to warm up. When it’s cold, your heart and muscles need more time to get ready.
  • Wear a scarf or mask loosely over your nose and mouth to prevent the sting of icy cold air when you inhale. This is especially important if you have asthma or heart problems.
  • Choose shoes with lugged soles for traction, and buy an inexpensive pair of ski or walking poles to help keep your balance. (The poles will also help you burn extra calories because your upper body is getting a workout too.)
  • Take your workout indoors if you’d be risking frostbite (temperatures around -10 degrees F, including any windchill), if it’s icy, or if you’d encounter dangerous traffic.

When you step outside, you should feel slightly chilled but not cold. During your workout, you want to feel warm, not hot and sweaty. That means you need to dress in layers so that you can take them off or put more on as needed. Here are the basics of layering:

  • An inner layer made of synthetic fabric to wick sweat away so you stay dry
  • A middle, or insulating, layer (or two) of light-weight fleece fabric to keep you warm
  • An outer layer of waterproof, breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex to buffer you from the elements and let sweat escape
  • Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and sunscreen!

Remember to watch for traffic if you go outdoors. Here’s some tips for winter walking:

  • If the sidewalks and walkways are impassable and you have to walk in the street, walk against traffic and as close to the curb as you can.
  • Consider wearing a brightly-colored scarf or hat, or reflective gear, especially if you have to walk in the street.
  • Because of road conditions, motorists may not be able to stop at traffic signals or slow down for pedestrians. Before you step off  the curb into the street, make sure that any approaching vehicles have come to a complete stop.
  • Bending your knees a little, and taking slower steps can greatly reduce your chances of falling.

Sources: Prevention Magazine and Ohio Department of Public Safety

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