Winter Walking: 10 Tips
Don't let the cold weather keep you from walking. Here are tips on how to stay safe and warm.
Walking may just be the simplest way to stay active — it improves circulation, mobility and balance, helps you lose weight, and even works to prevent osteoporosis. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other!
But once winter rolls around, you're more likely to hang up your walking shoes, reach for the hot chocolate and grab a seat on the couch, right? That's a nice, cozy solution but not a very healthy one. And just because it's not sunny and warm outside doesn't mean you should hibernate inside all winter — or even restrict your exercise to the gym.
"Walking outdoors in winter is extremely invigorating and almost meditative," says Suzanne Nottingham, an American Council on Exercise spokesperson. "It's like you're part of nature, walking in the midst of howling winds, blowing snow and a bright sun. And it's quiet; not many people are out," says Nottingham, who walks outside in the Lake Tahoe area whenever she can — even in the colder months.
Ready to get moving outside? Here's some advice that will help you stay safe and warm when you're walking in winter.
Ease into it
Start slowly to give your muscles a chance to warm up.
Walk at a moderate or slow pace
Winter roads and paths can be icy. The bigger your strides, the higher your risk of falling.
Don't assume you only need water in summertime. Dry winter air is dehydrating, and you do sweat away water in winter — you just don't always realize it.
In low-visibility and bad road conditions, you don't want to walk where there's traffic. Instead, head to parks, bike paths, high school tracks, or residential streets that draw very few cars. Always wear reflective gear. If it gets really cold, try walking at the mall.
Aim to wear three layers
"It's better to have and not need," says Nottingham. You can always peel the layers off.
"Try clothes made out of material that will keep moisture away from your skin, so you won't get cold. Nike's Dri-Fit clothes are a good bet," advises Nottingham.
Grab ski gloves if it's snowing. A hat and a neck gaiter (a muff for your neck) will help keep you warm. If your ears, hands or head get too cold, go inside.
Protect your eyes
Wear sunglasses or, if it's snowing, goggles with a light-colored lens, to protect your eyes from snow glare.
Try studded outdoor walking shoes
These give you extra traction on slippery surfaces. "Lightweight hiking boots are a good option, too," says Culwell, "but stay away from heavy boots that are geared for climbing."
Don't layer your socks
There's a good chance you'll get blisters that way. Instead, wear thin socks designed to keep feet warm (try Thorlo or SmartWool).