Now that the winter chill has hit, it can be easy to stay warm and cosy under the doona rather than go on your usual morning run. The health benefits of exercising are great though, regardless of the season. Here are some tips to help you stay active and injury free throughout the winter months.

Increase your warm up time

Muscles and tendons are less extensible in the colder weather which can lead to more sprains and strains, so increasing your warm up time is a good idea. You might consider doing your usual exercise but at a lower intensity and with double the time usually allocated. This will help improve blood flow to your muscles and mobility in your joints as well as putting less stress on your heart. Likewise, a cool down at the end of your session can help to stabilise your heart and blood pressure.

Dressing well

The cooler weather can mean your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, using up the body’s energy and blood sugar levels. This can also affect your performance. It’s therefore important to make sure you are wearing the right clothing for exercising in winter, like increased layers so you can regulate your temperature easily. The layer that has direct contact with your skin should help draw sweat away from your body, the middle layer should help to insulate and if needed, another layer can be added to block any rain or wind. Don’t forget about your head and extremities too!

Weekend warrior syndrome

If you decide to save up all your exercise for the weekend because it’s too cold or dark to exercise before or after work during the week, then you are at more risk of injuries. Regular fitness training can help prevent injuries and if you play a team sport, keeping on track with a conditioning program in the lead up to a competitive season is also important.

Safety in the dark

Consider your visibility if you are exercising when it is still dark. Light clothing or something with reflective fabric should be considered to avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians.

Snow sports

If you intend to head to the ski fields, then it is worth considering participating in a specific program to help strengthen the knees and hips, some physiotherapists offer skiing/snowboarding specific conditioning programs. Get your ski equipment e.g. ski bindings checked as falls can result in ACL ruptures and broken bones. The Snowsafe Alpine Responsibility Code provides a safety checklist which is worth consulting before your trip.

Drink up

It’s important to stay well hydrated when exercising. Despite its warming properties, it is best to avoid alcohol which can impair coordination and ability to regulate body temperature.