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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

How to Exercise Outside

New research shows that those who exercise outside are healthier and happier than those who don’t. Here’s how to maximize the benefits.

When cold weather hits, many people take their workouts indoors. But according to a recent study, people who exercise outside experience less tension and more energy, among other benefits. “The old adage that it’s healthy to get some fresh air is true,” says Carol Ewing Garber, an associate professor of movement sciences at Columbia University. Here’s how to make exercising outside easier, safer and more energizing.

Love Your Layers

When dressing to go outside to exercise, be sure to layer and wear heavy gloves/socks to keep your extremities warm. This way you’ll be able to remove some clothing if you feel too toasty during exercise. But remember to put a layer back on if you stop moving for a minute. Even if you don’t feel cold, the move helps prevent frostbite, which can set in quickly.

Wear the Right Shoes

Wear shoes with a heavier tread -- or fasten special detachable spikes or cleats to your normal sneakers -- during icy or snowy weather. Also, slow down your normal pace. It’s a small price to pay to prevent a spill that could leave you seriously injured.

Sweat During Daylight Hours

Check weather reports for when sunset will be before heading out for a late-afternoon or early-evening workout. Since it’s much more difficult to see ice and other hazards at night, plan to head home before the sun sets. If you’re a morning exerciser, try to do your workout after sunrise. If that’s not possible, stay in well-lit and well-populated areas.

Don’t Forget to Drink Up

Make sure to grab something to sip on during your workout. You’re still sweating under all those clothes -- particularly if you’re working out at a more vigorous pace -- so it’s important to replenish the fluids you’re losing. Keep in mind that the water doesn’t have to be chilled, though. Warm water or tea is just as effective at hydrating and can help you maintain your body temperature on frigid

Pick the Perfect Route

Some people who don’t exercise outside regularly make the mistake of going too far before turning back, only to discover that they feel tired and have trouble getting back to their starting point. To prevent this, do the first half of your workout into the wind. That way, when you turn around, the second half will be much easier.

Protect Your Noggin

Wear a helmet for downhill sports like skiing or snowboarding, as well as for cycling and ice hockey. You might even want to consider one if you’re cross-country skiing through a hilly area. Certain helmets are specially designed for winter wear so you can fit a lightweight hat underneath.

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