How do I ensure that I stay healthy while spending time outdoors during the winter?
November 23, 2007 12:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I ensure that I stay healthy while spending time outdoors during the winter?

I love being outdoors, walking around the neighborhood, taking the train into town and sauntering along the streets.

However, the cold weather of fall and winter has had the unfortunate effect of turning me into a couch potato. I've started fearing the outdoors because even though I dress in layers and never feel cold, I still manage to get at least a minor case of cold/sore threat. I think it may have to do something with the fact that I walk briskly and work up a sweat. ( That is phenomenon is exacerbated by layers of clothing)

So what should I do to avoid the potential cold/sore threat?
(Btw, I usually wear a coat with a warm sweater underneath, and a hat. Also, sweatpants underneath my khakis when it's really freezing out. When the time comes, gloves and a scarf will come into the equation.)
posted by gregb1007 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmm. Are you a couch-potato in spite of your exercise, or instead of it?
posted by rhizome at 1:15 AM on November 23, 2007


rhizome, instead it. Like I said, I've become cautious of being outside in cold weather, because I've gotten colds and sore throats. Being sick is no fun.
posted by gregb1007 at 1:17 AM on November 23, 2007


Are you sure you're not just catching those colds from other people at work?
posted by Reggie Digest at 1:40 AM on November 23, 2007


Seconding Reggie Digest's question, I'm outdoors daily in all weathers throughout the year (dogs!) and the only time I get a rare cold is when I'm in contact with other people, especially younger children who seem especially good at harbouring and spreading germs.
posted by ceri richard at 1:51 AM on November 23, 2007


You don't get sick just from the state of being outside in winter.

Granted, your immune system can be weakened if you are unprotected in a harsh climate (however, clearly you are taken the proper precautions). Therefore, the sore throat and other symptoms you are experiencing are probably unrelated to your walks outside. (Although bear in mind that rhino-viruses (one of the infectious agent responsible for causing the common cold) may be more adept at infecting humans in a slightly colder climate.)

Instead, you might be getting sick from taking the train with other sick people, being indoors in a dryer than usual climate that inhibits the defense mechanisms present in the body's mucas membranes, or have an allergy to something that is more common in winter (e.g. wool or down).
posted by dendrite at 2:04 AM on November 23, 2007


Being indoors in a dryer than usual climate - what does that mean? (I ask for elaboration to check if this is something that might be affecting my colds)
posted by gregb1007 at 2:10 AM on November 23, 2007


I think they mean dryed-out office environments where the aircon/heating is turned up too high.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:20 AM on November 23, 2007


I've just moved to a cold climate, and I've found that my throat gets very scratchy and unhappy after exercising heavily out in the cold; it goes away the next day, but I have yet to come up with a good solution. I haven't noticed any correlation to actually catching colds more often or not.
posted by anonymoose at 3:37 AM on November 23, 2007


Running in the cold always makes my throat sore as I'm doing it, but that sensation usually goes away once I've warmed up again. Also, the cold air frosts up my sinuses, which then tend to immediately empty themselves out upon melting.

Is that what's going on? That's not a cold; it's just the cold.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:06 AM on November 23, 2007


well, it's definitely something to the effect of anonymoose's description. A scratchy throat that feels sore after being outdoors in the winter cold and that also sometimes turns into a cold that keeps in bed and makes me take caugh medicine. (Though not always.)
posted by gregb1007 at 4:20 AM on November 23, 2007


I heard that allowing your nose to get cold reduces the effectiveness of nasal hair and opens you up to colds.

You could wear a scarf round your face (chav-style to those in the UK).

Also - does anyone here run with a hat/scarf... I had a debate with someone the other day... what do you think about doing this?
posted by tomw at 5:35 AM on November 23, 2007


Spending time exercising outdoors should make you more healthy, not less. The reason we get colds in the winter (and the reason that is Flu season) is that we spend more time indoors close to other humans, Also, as cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air, our breathing pasages tend to dry out which, I guess, makes them more susceptible to catching diseases. I use a humidifier, which seems to help. Wash your hands after contact with people and enjoy the great outdoors!
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:28 AM on November 23, 2007


Everyone has pinged on the dry, cold air. In addition to using a humidifier, and covering your mouth and nose when outside, remember to stay well hydrated. As the outdoor air dries and the interior air dries further, we may not be sweating like in the summer but we still need to drink plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids.
posted by Dreama at 6:41 AM on November 23, 2007


I grew up near Boston and used to run outside in the winter all the time. Only when it got down to around 10 degrees did we stay inside. Mind you, if you've already been a couch potato since mid-October and go on a long run all of a sudden right now, you might get sick from it.

If you really think sweating is the problem, you should wear more layers, and thinner ones. If you can manage to wear three light jackets over two t-shirts, then you can gradually unzip all of the jackets as need be. Also a hat'll make you sweat more than anything else, so don't be afraid to take it off. tomw: if you're me, then running with a hat will make you sweat within about two minutes flat, and then you'll freeze and be unhappy.
posted by creasy boy at 6:45 AM on November 23, 2007


Keep in mind that it's not just layers it's what you're layering that really matters. Cotton clothing has the bad side effect of soaking up sweat and then holding it near your body damply if you're laering it in cold weather. If you haven't already invest in some decent long underwear made of silk, polypropylene or whatever all the kids today are wearing and pay attention not just to your layers but how you're layering. If you google dressing for cold weather exercise you'll find a bunch of pages spelling this out like this one.

Part of the equation besides decent layers is making sure you're taking care of the rest of you. Decent socks and shoes, a good hat and scarf and gloves, and also stuff for your skin like chapstick and possibly moisturizer or sunscreen depending on your complexion. Also once you get inside take off ALL your outdoor clothes and put on dry ones and have something to drink. It's easy to sweat in the winter and not really notice it, but dehydration can really make any sort of exercise feel wretched.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 AM on November 23, 2007


Seconding jessamyn's suggestions for appropriate clothing. Cotton really isn't good in cold weather. And you don't have to bundle up for the Arctic if it's only around freezing, for example. Most people find that they do best if they're slightly chilly when they start out, and then they're properly dressed for exertion.

Make sure you're hydrated before going outside. Also, do you have asthma at all? As much as I despise warm, humid weather, lately I've had to acknowledge that nice cold, crisp air kills my throat. Scarves or fleece neck-warmers help.
posted by bassjump at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2007


I don't know if you are lumping different things together by equating colds with cold weather. Assuming you dress for the outdoors then you most likely get colds from other people. Scratchy throats could be a result of breathing in too much cold air in which case you really should wear a good scarf which covers your mouth or a face mask. If you sweat too much you are wearing too many clothes. Lighten up.

Otherwise wash your hands after contact with door knobs or commonly touched surfaces to avoid contact germs from other people. Use a nasal spray like Vick's First Defense to protect against airborne germs and you should easily stay healthy.
posted by JJ86 at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2007


Also, drink more water or hot, herbal tea. While you're not sweating in the winter, you're losing moisture through your mouth and lungs and you need to replace it. Hydration is essential anytime you're basically not at room temperature.
posted by GuyZero at 9:52 AM on November 23, 2007


I get a sore throat while running in the winter, too. But for me it goes away after the first really hard, long run, and thereafter it goes away after I warm up. (And, this is sort of gross, but it goes away faster if I spit and try to wipe off any slime from my tongue (onto my shirt sleeve). Usually, again, this only seems to happen the first time after a long break. Sorry if I'm grossing you out here.)
posted by salvia at 1:19 AM on November 24, 2007


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