SIKESTON - It's difficult enough for some people to motivate themselves to exercise indoors when the weather is nice, much less doing it outside during the winter months when you dread even taking the family dog out.
But the New Madrid County Health Department says winter weather doesn't have to be an excuse for inactivity. By following a few simple suggestions, outdoor physical activity in the winter can be a safe and pleasant experience.
The first rule of thumb, said Tammy Bennett who works with the cardiovascular program at the health department, is always dress appropriately. Wear layers and avoid cotton as the first layer.
"As you sweat, cotton can become soggy or wet, making your body colder," explained Bennett. "Try to find clothing made out of synthetic fibers which will stay dry and warm. Examples of synthetic fibers are nylon, rayon and spandex. Many times people think that since you are more than likely going to sweat during your workout, a T-shirt or a pair of shorts is fine because your body temperature rises. But this is not true, you still need to dress in layers for cold weather."
And there's more to wearing hats in the wintertime than making a fashion statement. Bennett pointed out about 90 percent of all heat lost is through the head. By wearing a hat, the body heat will stay in longer, making you warmer. It's also important to keep hands and feet warm by wearing gloves or mittens and socks. Covering the mouth with a scarf or face mask is another way to keep the body warm. When the mouth is covered the air being breathed is warmed which in return warms the lungs.
Also important before beginning any physical activity routine is to warm up, especially in cold weather, advised Bennett. She noted a good winter warm-up should take around eight minutes or until you are sweating slightly.
"Warming up indoors is recommended because cold weather causes your muscles to become tighter, making it harder to limber up. Once your muscles are stretched and warmed, you are ready to go."
A common mistake Bennett said individuals often make during the winter months is not drinking enough water which can lead to dehydration. Whether you've thought about it or not, she pointed out people often become thirstier during the winter than during the summer because the forced warm air from heating our homes lacks the humidity we're used to during the summer months. She suggests drinking about eight glasses or 64 ounces of water daily.
"It's important to stay physically active during the winter as well as the summer to keep your body not only looking great, but feeling great, too. Listen to your body. If you begin to feel weak or can't catch your breath, then you may need to reduce or even stop your amount of physical activity for awhile. The most important thing to remember when beginning any new type of physical activity is to speak to your doctor or health care provider first."