Health Watch -- Exercising in the Cold

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Is the weather getting in the way of your fitness goals?

Many people make New Year's resolutions to get fit. But the new year starts in January, a month that's cold and wet in many parts of the country. That makes it difficult to get into the fitness habit - or it provides a convenient excuse not to exercise. It also makes it difficult to stick with a fitness routine you've already established.

But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you shouldn't let yourself fall back on that excuse. The benefits of a fitness routine come from regular workouts. Instead of giving up on exercise when the weather is bad, you need to find alternatives.

Dr. Peter Snell, a UT Southwestern physiologist, says the most obvious solution is to join a fitness center, such as a nearby gym or the YMCA, for indoor exercise in any weather conditions. Another idea is to go to a mall for indoor walking. Many malls offer special walking programs, with the interior of the mall open for walkers before the stores open. Getting a buddy to join you in your workout also helps you stick with it, even when it seems too cold and gloomy to get to the gym or mall.

Dr. Snell says wet weather doesn't have to be an exercise deterrent unless the weather is very cold. Protect yourself from the wind chill. Choose fabrics that breathe so you don't build up high temperatures near your body as you exercise. You should also look for fabrics that wick moisture away from your body so you don't get chilled by damp clothes.