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Exercise and Enjoy Outdoors Safely During Winter Weather

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | 10:25am

NASHVILLE. – Cold weather doesn’t have to send your exercise routine into hibernation. While outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards during winter months, you can still enjoy a walk, run or maybe a sled ride while taking steps to stay safe and healthy. These simple tips are also important for those working outdoors during winter weather.

“Cold temperatures may make you want to huddle up inside, but a brisk walk may be just what you need for a burst of energy and a clear head,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “It’s important to remain physically active year-round, and sometimes winter weather requires us to do extra work outside. We can take a few extra steps to keep our bodies warm while enjoying physical activity or doing work outdoors during winter weather.”

Here are some simple tips to help prepare for outdoor activities during cold weather:

Wear appropriate outdoor clothing including layers of light, warm clothes; mittens or gloves; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots or shoes
Keep dry, changing wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat
Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches
Be aware of the wind chill factor
Work slowly when doing outside chores. Your body is working hard to keep you warm even before you start your activity and it may be easy to overdo it. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack.
Carry a cell phone
Take a buddy and an emergency kit when taking part in outdoor recreation
Don’t drink alcohol, which can impair judgment and put you at greater risk for cold weather illness and injuries
Children taking part in outdoor activities such as sledding should always be supervised by an adult
Drink water. Hydration is important during cold weather too.
Take a break to warm up inside when you need it

Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature that occurs when your body is exposed to cold temperatures and begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it. Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away if you suspect hypothermia. Frostbite is an injury most common on exposed skin such as cheeks, nose and ears but can also occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If you suspect frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area, but don’t rub since that can damage the skin. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.

“It’s also a good idea to check on relatives, friends and neighbors who are at higher risk from cold weather hazards, including young children, older adults and those with chronic illness,” said TDH Community Health Services Medical Director Jan BeVille, MD. “If you’re able, offer to help with tasks such as bringing in newspapers and mail, taking out trash, walking dogs or clearing ice and snow from steps and driveways.”

Find more tips on winter health and safety from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/Features/WinterWeather/index.html. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers resources for winter weather preparedness at www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://health.state.tn.us/.