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Tips for Dressing for Cold Weather Exercise

Couple jogging in cold weather

When the weather gets cold, figuring out what to wear to exercise outside comfortably and safely is a challenge. The HSS Women’s Sports Medicine Center offers the following tips on how to dress for workout success in cold temperatures and wet weather:

1. Dress in layers. This will trap and warm the air between each layer for an insulating effect. The outer layer should repel wind and precipitation, while the inner layers provide additional warmth. Jackets, hats and gloves or mittens can be removed or added as your body heats up or as weather conditions change. A thermal turtleneck can be pulled up over your mouth to warm the air as you breathe.

2. Don’t wear cotton next to your skin. As you start sweating, cotton captures moisture and traps it next to your body. Your body loses heat four times faster when exposed to water (rather than air of the same temperature). Put that old t-shirt back in the drawer and use a shirt made of a wicking fabric, designed to move moisture away from the body. Wicking materials are usually some type of treated polyester blend, and come in different weights and thicknesses depending on the weather and your exercise intensity.

3. Avoid the tendency to overdress. This will reduce unnecessary sweating which contributes to heat loss. If you’re exercising vigorously your body temperature will rise, even though the air is cold. Remain dry and comfortable during exercise by removing layers as your body heats up. You’ll warm up as you get going, so it’s ok to start out the first ten minutes of your workout feeling a little chilly. Experiment to find what combination of clothing works best for you.

4. Your outer layer should repel wind and rain, yet allow body heat and sweat to pass through. Look for microfiber fabrics and other breathable materials. Well-placed vents can be unzipped to allow for air circulation. If you’re moving at high speeds during sports like cycling or skiing, there’s a limit to how much your outer garment can protect you from the elements, because the force of the wind is likely to push air and moisture through the fabric.

5. A hat is important. A lot of heat is lost through your head and neck. A thermal turtleneck can be pulled up over the mouth to warm the air you breathe. Mittens, headbands and hats can prevent frostbite on fingers or ears, and mittens keep fingers warmer than gloves.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.