Want to Exercise Outdoors? Dress Like They Do in the Arctic Circle

winter outdoor exercise, winter runner
Dress warmly and head for the great outdoors.

As a Certified Personal Trainer who loves exercising outdoors, my question in the cold, dark months is always how will I make it without my daily hit of fresh-air happiness? How will I get through with good cheer, good fitness, and good bones if I’m stuck inside? I feel claustrophobic knowing that it can be downright dangerous to get outside. But the right planning can overcome any obstacles to exercising outdoors in cold temperatures.

We want to keep our bones healthy in all seasons, but did you know that bone density can actually drop in the winter? That’s because our bodies can’t make the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, because the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough between October and April. But that drop in bone density might also have something to do with not getting as much exercise.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight-bearing cardio and strength training for optimal bone health. It’s easy to strength train indoors, but this winter is giving us some seriously cold temperatures, and I get a little nervous about being able to do weight-bearing cardio in my favorite spot: the out-of-doors. My solution?

Clothes make the outdoor woman or man! I’m not talking about clothes in the fashion sense (although that’s always fun), but clothes that keep you dry, warm, and cozy—and active! Clothes can make all the difference in getting out with comfort or being confined indoors for winter exercise. Simply getting those clothes on will help you get out of the door.

I look at clothes as exercise equipment. Clothes play their part keeping me outdoors as long and as much as possible in the cold months. My wish list usually consists of outdoor athletic clothing and other random pieces of exercise equipment that entice me to move. Getting high-tech, high-quality gear from sporting goods stores like REI is a treat, but exercise clothing doesn’t need to be expensive, especially if you layer it. You might be surprised at the variety of workout clothing—for both indoors or outdoors—that you can find at discount stores.

Outdoor Clothing Recipe

Here’s what has kept me warm for cross-country skiing during sub-zero temperatures the past week:
2 layers of pants (wool tights and insulated pants), 2 pairs of wool socks, 2 turtlenecks (1 wool), parka, wool hat, and—especially for these sub-zero temperatures—a balaclava or wool scarf and ski goggles to cover my face. I’m totally covered and toasty! It’s how kids living in the Arctic Circle get out and play in the winter, and it works in Iowa, too.

What’s important is making sure that you keep moving when your exercise options are limited because of weather. The right outfit can help keep you comfy and motivated to do your winter cardio in the out-of-doors. Do what it takes to stay fit and keep your bones strong, for life!

Susie Hathaway

Susie Hathaway is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer teaching strength-training classes in Fairfield. Her DVDs, Safe Strength Training and Resistance Band Training for Osteoporosis Prevention, are sold locally and at Amazon.com. Visit her website, StrengthTrainingForOsteoporosis.com.