Jogging is an aerobic, high-impact exercise like running, though it is performed at a slower and more leisurely pace. The health benefits include increased cardiovascular health, the strengthening of large muscle groups and overall physical endurance. When jogging outdoors however, weather and temperature are factors in the physical effects on the body. While research shows that jogging in cold weather isn't necessarily harmful to your health, it is important to know the risks of exercising outdoors in the winter and what precautions to take.
1. Cold Weather Risks
Hypothermia can be a cause for concern when jogging outdoors in the winter. Cold temperatures lower the amount of metabolic heat the body produces, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Cold temperatures also decrease the body's ability to feel pain, so old injuries that flare up may go unnoticed and become worse. Some people may have cold-induced asthma from jogging outdoors as well. With proper precautions, the risks of jogging in cold weather can be minimized.
2. Dress for the Weather
Dressing in layers can be effective when jogging during the winter months. Moisture wicking clothing that draws sweat away from the body works well as a first layer, with fleece or wool for the next insulating layer, topped off with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. Wearing a thin pair of gloves under mittens can help to prevent frostbite on the hands and keep the ears and head covered as well. To avoid breathing in cold air, consider wrapping a scarf or neck gator over the mouth. Take care to ensure you wear footwear with proper traction that can prevent slips and falls caused by wintery conditions. Since running shoes can lose shock absorption as the temperatures drop, it's a good idea to wear heavier, waterproof shoes without any mesh for snow and ice to seep through.
3. Watch Where you Jog
If you can, try to stay on clear, well-maintained paths to prevent injury when jogging in the winter. Jogging near hills where temperatures can be higher, and avoiding pathways around rivers and lakes where winds can be elevated from lack of tree cover, can aid in avoiding frostbite and hypothermia. Beginning your jog into the wind so it's at your back by the end can help to avoid getting chilled, particularly if you've worked up a sweat during exercise.
4. Know the Warning Signs
Frostbite commonly occurs on exposed skin like the ears, cheeks and nose, but can also affect the hands and feet. Early warning signs of frostbite are stinging, tingling and numbness. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it produces it, eventually leading to the body temperature dropping dangerously low. Symptoms of hypothermia include slurred speech, intense shivering, fatigue and loss of coordination. If you suspect hypothermia, seek emergency help immediately. While exercising in the winter months, it's important to closely monitor your body in order to prevent frostbite and hypothermia, but not necessary to stop jogging.