Newswise — Whether your fitness level involves an occasional walk to enjoy a newly fallen snow, a trip to the ski slopes or a diligent daily running schedule, staying prepared for the winter environment can help keep you accident-free.
Cold weather can trigger underlying health conditions so it’s important to listen to your body and dress appropriately for the weather.
Start with proper footwear, and dress in layers. “You don’t want cold moisture sitting on the skin when exercising,” said Christopher Davison, MD, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut. “That’s why you should wear a thin layer that touches the skin and allows evaporation of sweat rather than absorption of it, covered by a sweater, which is covered by a shell that is wind- and waterproof. Dressing in layers allows you to shed and add warmth for comfort,” said Dr. Davison.
Body heat gets lost through the head. Whether you need a hat depends partially on your amount of body fat, but wearing gloves and keeping the extremities covered is important for everyone to prevent frostbite or frostnip to fingers, toes, ears and nose. The first sign of frostbite is a tingly or numb sensation. The skin is red. More serious is when you no longer feel sensation and the skin turns white.
“Hypothermia, when your overall body temperature falls below a safe level, can occur in winter temperatures as warm as 50 degrees for prolonged periods, such as a marathoner or distance cyclist,” said Davison.
Hypothermia sometimes mimics stroke symptoms – confusion and slurred speech, and it can lead to a heart attack. The most common warning, though, is shivering. If you shiver to the point where you can’t stop, take it seriously and don’t try to tough it out in the cold. Get indoors, warm yourself gradually and avoid extreme heat.
When running, walking or cycling at early morning or dusk, wear reflective gear and use some sort of light that allows you to see potholes and rocks ahead of you. Trips and falls from road surfaces and invisible black ice bring joggers and cyclists to the emergency department every winter, says Dr. Davison.
Skiing and snowboard accidents are more likely to occur with the combination of cold weather, tired muscles and the addition of alcohol toward the end of the day. All these things compromise the body’s ability to perform at peak level. No matter what your sport, winter athletes need to drink water to rehydrate after activity to keep the body performing efficiently.
About Greenwich Hospital
Greenwich Hospital is a 206-bed (includes 32 isolettes) community hospital serving lower Fairfield County, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York. It is a major academic affiliate of Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Yale New Haven Health System. Since opening in 1903, Greenwich Hospital has evolved into a progressive medical center and teaching institution representing all medical specialties and offering a wide range of medical, surgical, diagnostic and wellness programs.