Dec 12, 2018

Tips for Cold Weather Exercise with Arthritis

Winter has hit North Carolina! And while it may not be officially considered winter for a few weeks, these frigid days tell us otherwise. The temperatures are quickly dropping and that comfy couch and cozy blanket are much more appealing than a brisk walk outside. Unfortunately, inactivity will make pain and depression worse for arthritis sufferers- especially this time of year. Staying active has been proven to help manage pain for arthritis patients so don’t give up because it’s cold. Here are eight tips for cold weather exercise with arthritis.

Be savvy and safe.

Being active is extremely important, but your health and safety must be a top priority. Before you go outside, spend a few minutes warming up. Getting your body warm will loosen up your joints and give your muscles extra flexibility. Start by marching in place for about five minutes at a comfortable pace and finish with some stretching of your important muscle groups. Don’t forget that after your workout it’s essential to take time to cool down and stretch out as well. Make sure your close friends or family know your exercise routine. Always bring a phone with you and let people know where you’re going. Make sure you choose an area that’s familiar to you so you will be able to find your way back home if you somehow get off track. If you are heading out in the early morning or evening be sure to wear appropriate, reflective clothing so you can be easily seen in the dark.

Dress in layers.

Dress in comfortable layers that you can easily remove as you warm up, and are able to put back on if you start to get chilly. Loose layers trap body heat and keep joints warm. However, be careful not to overdress and potentially overheat.

Protect yourself.

Working out in cold weather exposes your hands, feet, ears and nose to harsh temperatures. A fitted hat is ideal for keeping your ears covered and helps reduce the heat you lose from your head. Look into some quality gloves, a good scarf, and warm shoes or boots with lots of traction.

Stay hydrated.

We hear all summer long how important it is to stay hydrated, but it’s just as important to drink lots of water in the winter months as well. If you are exercising you will still sweat and it’s essential to replenish those lost fluids before, during, and after your workout.  Believe it or not, dehydration is a huge source of fatigue and it can impact mood and brain function. So even if you aren’t working out, be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid too many drinks with sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.

Research low-impact fitness.

Staying active does not mean you have to go all out with high-impact exercises to make a difference on your body and mind. Low-impact routines such as walking, biking, yoga, or cross country skiing are crucial for those with arthritis. These sports are not only easier on the joints but provide all the same benefits.

Stay inside.

On the coldest winter days it’s best to stay indoors where you can take control of your surroundings. Pop in a yoga video, hop on a treadmill, walk at the mall, or take an exercise class at the local gym. Don’t let cold weather stop you from exercising outside and taking in fresh air, but use your best judgement on those uncertain days.

Less is more.

Exercising daily is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to dedicate hours to each workout, especially when it’s cold out. Shorter 20-30 minute sessions done daily for multiple days in a row will have immense benefits. A short, but brisk 30-minute stroll everyday will start adding up quickly to major health benefits.

Consult your doctor.

The only one who knows you better than yourself is your doctor. If you are new to getting active, be sure to consult your physician. Call Carolina Arthritis with any questions and together we can create a fitness plan that works best for you and your health.

Get moving and reclaim your body from arthritis! Don’t let cold weather and stiff joints hold you back from living your best life possible.