120317 Cold weather training and your health

120317 Cold weather training and your health

There is an inverse relationship between cold weather training and health related issues, especially for the older generation. And, in this case, the old saying “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” is particularly true since knowing what is at risk in the cold weather means you can be better prepared to meet it head on.

Dr. Suzanne Salamon, from the Harvard Medical School, mentions a few of the areas that may cause you problems this winter, along with some suggestions about fending them off this season[1].

Cold weather training and your body temperature

As you age, your risk of hypothermia increases, even in milder temperatures. To avoid such an occurrence dress for the weather and not to be fashionable. It won’t matter how nice your look if you’re lying on the ground dying of hypothermia because you fell and weren’t dressed to stay warm.

Some of the signs of being too cold include “stiffness in the neck, arms, and legs.”[2] Be on the safe side and call 911 if you think you or someone else is at risk of suffering from hypothermia.

Cold weather training and your immune system

Due to the extended time spent inside during the cold weather, your body is in closer contact with others, some of who may have a cold, the flu, and a cough just waiting to give it to you. There are ways that you can avoid or minimize catching these illnesses in the mall, stores, and other commercial establishments.

  • One of the most recommended is to get a yearly flu shot (and no you won’t get the flu from your flu shot unless you were already getting it in the first place)
  • Be conscientious about washing your hands often with soap or hand sanitizer.
  • If you have to cough or sneeze then do so in the crook of your arm instead of spraying the room with your germs. In any case, don’t sneeze or cough into your hands because after doing so you spread the germs onto anything else you may touch.

Cold weather training and your balance

With the cold weather comes ice and ice means the potential for a fall. Falling can be a direct cause of a fracture. The cold also slows down your reflexes and reaction to the danger of a fall because your muscles and nervous systems are unable to rapidly respond to the loss of equilibrium. This is the reason athletes warm up prior to exertion; this does not mean a static warm up stretch. It means a dynamic warmup stretch.

To help avoid a fall stay away from slippery surfaces—easier said than done—but try anyway. Wear the ice grippers on your shoes or boots. Use the handrail on the stairs.


Cold weather training and your heart

The cold weather affects your heart since the temperature acts as a vasoconstrictor by narrowing your blood vessels. This narrowing raises your risk of a heart attack by making your heart work harder pumping the blood throughout your body.

In order to offset this risk wear warm clothing, in layers if necessary, put on a hat, use gloves, and a warm jacket or coat. If you are vulnerable to a heart attack then avoid shoveling snow or other activity that places undue stress on your cardiovascular system.

Cold weather training and your skin

Cold air sucks the moisture out of your skin. Protect this from happening by using moisturizers with an oil base. This helps block evaporation of fluids from your skin.

When showering or bathing use moderate temperature water rather than a hot one. This helps keep the oil on the skin. Afterwards, put on a non-scented moisturizer. Not everyone thinks that your exotic smelling moisturizer is all that great. To them it just stinks and gets worse the longer they have to smell it.

The bottom line solution is to pay attention to the weather and dress accordingly, stay out of the hot shower water, use moisturizers without scents, and protect your heart by not overdoing it outside.

[1] Harvard Health Letter December 2014

[2] ibid

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