CSP Team Note: We recently interviewed Dr. Anna Kowalczyk, a pediatrician with Cotswold Pediatrics about how to keep the entire family active as cold weather approaches. We appreciate her time and expertise!
Is exercising in the cold bad for you?
When done correctly, exercising in the cold is a great way to continue to stay active and healthy all year round. It’s important to dress in layers and waterproof clothing in order to prevent hypothermia or frostbite. For children who have asthma, keeping an inhaler on hand is important to avoid an asthma attack particularly if cold air is a trigger.
How cold is too cold to exercise outside?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should not exercise outdoors when temperatures fall below minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, it never gets that cold in Charlotte, with average temperatures in the winter around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are some winter exercise ideas?
There are lots of fun ways to stay active in the winter! These include walking, running, biking, hiking, soccer, basketball, and touch football just to name a few. For those who would prefer to exercise indoors, options include indoor skating rinks (both ice skating and roller skating), indoor swimming pools, gymnasiums, or even walking around the mall. Remember to be safe and wear a helmet when appropriate! It’s also important to remember that Charlotte tends to get more ice than snow, which can make exercising outside slippery and potentially unsafe. It’s recommended to exercise later in the day, such as in the afternoon, instead of the early morning to allow time for ice to melt.
What are some tips for exercising in cold weather?
Dress in warm layers – this includes a T-shirt as your initial layer, followed by a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket or sweater, and finally a waterproof winter coat on those particularly cold days. Don’t forget a hat, scarf, and gloves. Layers can be removed as you start to warm up and sweat from exercising.
Speaking of sweating, staying hydrated in the winter is just as important as it is in the summer.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Know the signs of hypothermia: feeling cold, shivering, slurred speech, drowsiness, shallow breathing, and confusion.
What are some ways to get cardio in during the winter?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day – this means getting your heart rate up! Cardio is a great way to increase your heart rate and activities that do so include dancing, jumping rope, running, biking, etc. If you’d prefer to exercise indoors, the YMCA offers lots of fun indoor classes and activities for kids such as swimming and basketball. You can also stay at home and dance to your favorite music or watch an online exercise video. YouTube has some great (and free!) exercise videos for kids.
Do hydration needs change when you’re exercising in the winter?
Absolutely. We should be drinking as much, if not more, water in the colder months when compared to warmer months. Cold weather contributes to dehydration in a variety of ways. Sweating and your sensation to notice thirst are less obvious in the winter than in the summer. Cold weather increases our metabolic rate to keep us warm, however, this creates more water loss from our bodies. Urination also increases in the winter. Speaking of urine, paying attention to the color of your urine is one of the easiest ways to know if you’re hydrated or not. In someone who is hydrated, urine should be a very pale yellow color – the goal is a color more like watered-down lemonade vs apple juice.
Is it just us, or is it harder to lose weight in the winter?
Our bodies are less efficient in colder temperatures because our muscles have a harder time contracting. Couple that with decreased motivation and increased food intake from the holidays and it’s no wonder that some of us actually gain weight in the winter. To combat these issues, staying hydrated and warming up before exercising can improve performance, finding an exercise buddy can help with motivation and commitment, and staying away from overly rich and sugary holiday treats can help maintain a healthy weight even during colder months.
My kids refuse to wear pants to school – when should I say “enough is enough” and make them wear pants?
While everyone’s comfort in cold weather varies, some experts will say that once temperatures fall below 40 degrees and are getting closer to freezing it’s important to dress warmly, which includes wearing pants. This becomes even more important if it’s wet, snowing, or icy outside, or if the child is going to be outside for long periods of time.
At Atrium Health Levine Children’s, our care is designed with kids in mind, from our compassionate providers to convenient appointment times. We’re backed by the award-winning Levine Children’s Hospital- so your child can get care as special as they are, close to home. Find a doctor near you.