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New Hampshire Winter Workouts Require Precautions

If you live in or near Concord, New Hampshire, you know that it can get a tad chilly here in the winter. That’s an understatement, of course; with an average January low of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and 18 inches of snow, Concord in the wintertime is not for the faint of heart.

Frigid temperatures and icy conditions can be dangerous, particularly for seniors; falls and hypothermia are among the risks that lurk in the wintertime. If you’re a senior who works hard to maintain your health and stamina with regular exercise, cold winter days can present challenges. They don’t have to derail your fitness routine, however. By taking the proper precautions, you can get out and about to enjoy the brisk air and beautiful winter scenery on all but the harshest of days.

Get the OK from your doctor

Before you consider working out in the cold, be sure to get a thorough check and an all-clear from your doctor. Especially if you have a chronic health condition like a heart problem or asthma, check with your doctor before beginning an outdoor winter walking program.

Low temperatures can stress your cardiovascular system, constricting blood vessels and contributing to angina in people who already suffer from heart disease. The cold also can raise blood pressure. In asthma patients, the dry, cold air can lead to contractions of air passages; anti-asthma medications taken before exercise can help in many cases.

Take steps to avoid falls

More than 1.6 million senior Americans end up in the emergency room every year due to injuries from falls, and ice is a major culprit. If you’re wearing proper shoes or boots, it should be relatively easy to keep your footing in snow, but ice is another story. Even when you can see the ice, it can be deceptively difficult to keep your balance. And often, you can’t see black ice until you’re in the middle of it and already slipping and losing your balance.

To reduce the chances of a fall, be sure to stretch before heading out to boost your circulation and get your muscles loose. Wear shoes with non-skid soles with low heels and plenty of support. If you do plan to walk outdoors in snowy or icy weather, check with your doctor for the best footwear for you.

Keep warm and moisturized

Another winter hazard is hypothermia, especially for seniors, who may have arthritis, reduced circulation or lack of feeling in extremities. If you do venture outdoors, dress in heat-holding layers, and wear a hat and gloves. It’s critical to know the signs of hypothermia: dizziness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, slow speech and shallow breathing. Always carry a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.

Extremely dry skin is another potential peril if you spend time outdoors in winter. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking ample water and eating lots of water-containing foods, including vegetables, fruits and soups. Be sure to moisturize your skin every day, and always wear sunscreen when you’ll be outdoors.

Do this before you exercise outdoors…

Before venturing out in the cold for some movement and fresh air, check the weather forecast. Experts say the danger zone typically begins when the wind chill factor — the combination of air temperature and wind — drops below -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The -20 wind chill factor can result when temperatures are below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and winds are 40 miles per hour or greater, or when temperatures alone are at -20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Instead, consider exercising indoors

Especially during the harshest days of winter, exercising indoors is smart, and it can be significantly safer. Consider joining a local gym or YMCA, where you can take classes, walk on a treadmill, swim or work out with weights. If you live in a continuing-care retirement community like Havenwood Heritage Heights, you have access to many ways to stay physically active, including an indoor pool and fitness center, along with group exercise classes.

While you can’t control the weather, you can take proper precautions for exercising outdoors — by getting the thumbs-up from your doctor, avoiding falls, protecting your skin and checking the weather. Or, you can find a great indoor spot for your workouts and head back out when Mother Nature decides to warm things up in the spring.