Cold-weather exercise tips

November 22, 2021
Winter safety Exercise
5 min read


Craig Turner, manager, Mount Nittany Health Fit for Play


If you enjoy walking, running, or biking, the arrival of cold weather might feel like the end of those outdoor activities. But you don’t need to give up outdoor exercise during the winter. With the right preparation and mindset, winter exercise can be energizing. Here are a few things to keep in mind before heading out for cold-weather activity.

Ease into winter exercise. Conditions are more challenging in wintry weather than in warmer months, so start with shorter walks or jogs to get acclimated.

Watch for ice. Watch out for areas with melted snow that can refreeze overnight, as well as black ice on sidewalks and roads. Make sure your footwear has adequate treads.

Dress for the cold. At a minimum, your cold-weather exercise clothing should consist of a hat, beanie, or headband, a base layer shirt, a running jacket, mittens or gloves, running pants or tights, and warm socks. Your clothes should be made from moisture-wicking materials like merino wool, polyester, or other synthetic fabrics that dry quickly and remove sweat from your skin. Cotton is one of the worst types of fabrics to wear running or working out. It’s not very warm to begin with, and once it gets wet, it stays wet.

Layering is key. Whether you’re heading out for a long walk, a relaxed jog, or a full-on run, the secret to staying comfortable is layering. Layers do two things: They provide a pocket of air between each layer that keeps you warmer, and they allow you to easily control your internal temperature by removing layers as you warm up.

If cycling is your preferred outdoor activity, here are a few tips to help you continue riding happily through the winter months:

Get the right gear. A cycling cap or skullcap that fits under your helmet adds warmth. For severe cold, consider a face mask or a helmet that covers more of your head. Waterproof bike gloves will keep your hands dry and warm. Most cycling shoes have a snug fit for pedaling efficiency, so you might consider switching to cycling footwear that’s slightly larger to accommodate thicker socks.

Check your tires. Check and adjust your tire pressure. Air pressure loss happens faster in cold temperatures; inflate tires to the low end of the recommended range. Consider switching to knobbier and/or slightly wider bike tires that grip better on mucky, wet, or slushy surfaces.

Take up the lane. While the far right of the road might seem like a place to stay out of harm’s way, that’s not necessarily the case. The immediate curb area is where plowed snow, mud, and broken glass accumulate. Also, the farther right you are, the harder it is for drivers to spot you in the dark. Riding in the middle of the right-hand lane makes you more visible and deters drivers from trying to squeeze by as they pass. You’ll also be keeping your bike farther away from roadside debris.

Ride relaxed. Locked knees and elbows make it harder to react smoothly. Instead, stay loose and use your legs to absorb any motion created when running over snowy ridges or other road rubble. Be alert and ready to steer around ice, slick leaf-covered surfaces, or debris.

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